Archive for February, 2011

Make Money as a Musician — The Indie Survival Kit

Monday, February 28th, 2011

Why do you want to learn the guitar?

If you were to ask that question most people would say that they want to learn the guitar because they want to master the instrument, write songs, meet band members who share the same passion and take over the world as a famous rockstar!

Becoming a famous musician is still extremely competitive and challenging but thanks to the World Wide Web more options exist for small, independent (or indie) artists. Which means that it is possible to actually get paid for doing the thing you love most — make and play music.

We spend the majority of our time on GLC examining the guitar but today’s post is about surviving as an indie artist. Check out some of needed steps below to make music, promote your name (or band) and actually earn a little money!

It all begins with the Web…

If you have made it this far then we are guessing that you’re a proficient musician with a love of the art that borderlines on insanity. You could make a living being an accountant but you would just as well prefer to play the guitar. If that’s true then that’s the first step because you need an intense desire and passion to make it as an indie musician. Still, for most, you’ll have to work an alternative job to fully support your means.

MySpace is not quite as popular as it was before Facebook became the “network of 500 million friends” but it still remains a viable web site largely because millions of musicians around the world use it as a totally free platform to promote their music. You need to make sure that you, the artist, utilizes Facebook, MySpace, YouTube and even Twitter to advance your music.

Promote your ‘brand’

Your brand is, of course, you the solo musician or the band. Back in the day it used to be that self-promotion meant you were “selling out” but oh how the times have changed. For one, “selling out” back in the day was not the same because those bands were signed to a major record label that invested millions of dollars to do the promoting behind-the-scenes with a skilled team of marketing and promoting staff members as well as PR contacts.

You, the indie artist, do not have the same “team” (your three member street team does not count). In addition to making great music you also have to be the marketing genius behind the sound. As an indie musician you’re not only the artist but also the label executive.

Get Creative

Easy enough, right? You’re an artist after all. The reality is that the Internet is a great tool for indie artists but it’s also a curse because anyone can share their music. So in order for potential fans to surf through all the garbage to finally discover you — the next superstar — you must get creative. Indie artists who make a living solely through music are great stories but they are few and far between. What is your gameplan?

Getting creative as an indie musician means everything from faking your CD (that was recorded in your apartment’s makeshift studio) as something that appears to be from a professional studio, to taking advantage of local college stations, to other unique ways of marketing.

Play live religiously

Never forget the old-fashion, always important aspect of playing live and playing locally often. Sure, it’s not Woodstock but local gigs will secure a foundation with your hometown. It’s grueling, hard work but playing a ton of gigs is the only way you’re going to pay the bills until you can land a record deal (or at least secure enough funds to record in the studio).

Over time playing live religiously should open up additional doors with bigger and better opportunities. In the mean time, appreciate the opportunity and appreciate that these “small” shows are slowly building up your performance skills. Who could possibly entertain 10,000 when they have not even moved a couple hundred first?

It’s got to be digital

Old-school music lovers (such as myself) will testify that nothing compares to buying an actual album, CD, cassette tape, vinyl or whatever was popular during your era. Unfortunately, the times in the music industry have changed and everything is going digital.

This means that you are going to save a lot of money (and earn more fans) by going digital with your music. Instead of full albums the mentality of the music industry (especially with new artists) is “one song at a time”. Singles rule when compared to full albums. Put out a few tracks and build your fanbase from there.

Use the ‘indie’ card

Even on the tightest of budget, an indie artist will need some equipment that is not necessary cheap. Consequently, you have to find a way to address your needs without paying full price. Everyone loves a great underdog story, right?

Indie artists are the underdogs. You will find that a lot of people in your community love to support the local arts and may be surprised to what you can get away with for simply saying — “I’m only an indie musician, how can you help me?”

Networking — Meet People Who Play Guitar

Monday, February 21st, 2011

The term networking is tossed around a lot professionally because it is considered a basic principle for expanding your name, business, or career but networking can also extend to virtually anything.

We here at Guitar Lessons Critic consider this an important fundamental to learning the guitar because often beginners are learning alone and need to connect with other guitarists once and awhile to stay motivated, inspired and educated.

If you’re learning from a private instructor, awesome! If you have a good buddy who also plays, even better. But if you’re like a growing proportion of aspiring guitarists that are self-taught and learning from a guitar course you probably do not know anyone on a personal level who plays. Today, we plan to change that by suggesting 5 easy places to network.

Want Ads/Local Bulletin Boards

A great deal of outreach and networking has relocated to the World Wide Web but that does not mean you cannot find out about local music groups, clubs, etc the old-fashion way. For example, a basic scan of the community bulletin board in my hometown revealed that a local non-profit hosts a FREE open-mic/jam night at their center every Thursday night.

Also, if you enjoy the nightlife you’ll likely find a lot of local bands that play on Friday and Saturday nights at the nearest bar or club. Feel free to mingle with the band after their show and express your interest in regards to learning the guitar and connecting with the local music scene.

Music Store

Almost every town, small and big, have at least one locally owned music joint. So if an individual was to advertise, say a weekly gathering for guitarists or musicians in general, we’re pretty sure that he would post the notice at the music store.

If nothing else, the people who work at these shops love music. It’s probably their life. You can probably learn a great deal from them and hopefully network further. Just remember to give them a little business here and there.

Social Networking

Ah, the grand invention of the 21st century. Social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter are absolute hot spots for guitarists to network. For example, a simple search of #guitar or #learn guitar may lead to thousands of results on Twitter or searching for groups or fan pages on Facebook should bring up more than a few guitar pages designed solely for networking.

Here, you can meet people who share your same passion, ask questions, answer questions, collaborate, etc, etc. The sky is basically the limit here and best of all access to these pages are absolutely FREE. You just need to “Like” the page and check back often.


A lot of the larger guitar sites offer their own forums for members to ask questions or seek advice from people who may know a little more about the guitar than you. Again, almost all of these resources are available at no extra cost and can be a phenomenal place for networking.

WARNING: Always use discretion when listening to advice and answers to your own questions. Just because someone posts on the Internet and claims to be an “expert” does not mean that said individual actually has any experience or stance on the matter. It always helps to do a little extra research.

Guitar Courses

Highly rated guitar courses like JamPlay actually include a website where users can go and network in addition to the lessons. We strongly recommend these types of courses because A) they are reputable, legitimate ways to learn the guitar, B) provide a lot of extra resources and ways to answer your questions as well as C) perfect for networking.

Electric Guitar Amp Settings 101

Sunday, February 13th, 2011

If you are a regular on GLC you will probably agree that most of the content on this blog deals with the actual guitar whether it be the instrument or ways to improve how it sounds when you play.

Admittedly, we probably do not spend enough time dealing with something that is NOT on the actual guitar but is very important to electric guitarists. As a result, today we’ll spend time examining the electric guitar amp, examining what all those little knobs do, if for example, you just bought a new guitar package this past week.

Electric Guitar Amp Settings 101

First off, let’s start with the definition of a guitar amp and what it actually does. The guitar amplifier (or ‘amp’ for short) is an electronic amplifier designed to make the signal of an electric or acoustic guitar louder so that it will produce sound through a loudspeaker. Beyond its basic mean of producing “louder” sounds amps can also modify an instrument’s tone by emphasizing or de-emphasizing certain frequencies and/or adding electronic effects.

Now that we have all the “big terms” out of the picture, the reason guitarists utilize amps is because the range of tone available is just so much greater. The guitar amp completely revolutionized rock ‘n roll because it brought a whole new spectrum to sound that musicians never thought possible.

When you first brought home your guitar amp you probably noticed that various knobs like “Treble”, “Middle”, “Bass” and “EQ” are situated on the front. You may have a basic understanding of what these settings do but if not, let’s define each term:

Treble – soprano; having or denoting a high range. Adjusting this setting will determine the amount of high end in your sound. Lots of treble equals a very sharp and crisp sound.

Middle — between the soprano and the bass, your middle control will impact the overall character of your sound. You could say that this is the most important setting. Little middle and you get that classic rock ‘n roll sound while higher mids equal a more blues like quality.

Bass — the low range is beloved by a lot of musicians and fans alike because it has that infamous deep, thundering quality. Most guitarists unanimously love a lot of bass but of course it always depends on personal opinion.
NOTE: You may not get the full effect of the bass with smaller amps simply because they are just not equipped to handle the load.

EQ/Tone —  this is your “overall” control. While Treble, Middle and Bass will ONLY adjust that particular range the EQ/Tone manages all your basic settings with one easy knob.

YouTube Preview Image

Additional Guitar Amp Settings

Every dependable amp should include the above settings but a lot of amps will also feature controls for distortion, chorus, reverb, etc, etc. If you have a solid understanding of Treble and Bass then distortion and reverb are just an added bonus. These types of controls are solely for guitar effects, allowing you to squeeze that sound exactly like how you intended.

Feel free to play around with those settings but always master the basic guitar amp fundamentals before getting too far ahead. As is the case with anything, cheaper amps will probably have less settings and not sound as good (especially when played loud).

If you bought a guitar package (guitar, amp, strap, picks, etc) you likely ended up with a practice amp. These small amps are great, like the name implies, for practice but do not sound exceptionally well when the volume is above a normal level. It’s a great starter tool but overtime most guitarists will eventually upgrade.

YouTube Preview Image

Experiment with your Guitar Amp

Have you ever watched an elderly individual attempt to use a computer for the first or second time? If so, you will probably observe that they are very timid and constantly afraid that one wrong click will “break” the entire computer. Of course, anyone who has used a computer knows this is silly but basically it comes down to that age group not being very familiar with the product and thus scared to use it.

The same could be said about guitar amps. At first, you may not want to mess with the amp settings too much because it could do harm to the machine or others might wonder what in the hell you are doing. In reality, nothing could be further from the truth. The only way you will really know what your amp is capable of doing is by experimenting with its settings. Play with the controls and have fun!

As a general rule of thumb, always starts with ALL dials pointed at 12 o’clock and work from there. Take notes if you find such a practice useful. Over time, you will learn which settings you like best and for what situation. Then, it really becomes fun because you do not have to do as much thinking and rather focus on the creativity of producing new music.

Master Sweep Picking

Monday, February 7th, 2011

If you have never heard the term sweep picking before then you’re more than likely a beginner guitarist. Today’s lesson is designed for the more advanced player although the guide is also set up as an informative piece to educate those who have never heard the term before.

Sweep picking is considered by most to be a technique that separates the average guitarist from the advanced guitarist. In general, advanced guitarists will use sweep picking to play arpeggios. Traditionally, distortion is needed to master sweep picking although it has been used before with a “clean guitar”. However, when guitarists utilize distortion with sweep picking they will find that arpeggios are generally challenging to master.

Guitarists love sweep picking because it essentially allows individuals to control what notes are ringing throughout the arpeggio. Typically, only one note sounds while the other notes are completely muted. The guitarist can accomplish this feat by either using the palm of their hand to mute the strings they are not playing OR use the thumb of the picking hand to do the same thing.

Mastering the muting technique will take some time. Of the above two methods, neither is the preferred approach. If you want, try muting the strings each way and attempt to decide which one feels more natural. The goal is to listen to how clean the arpeggio sounds when you mute the other strings.

YouTube Preview Image

When guitarists sweep pick each note should have definition and rhythmic placement. Someone who is unfamiliar with this technique will simply strum the pick across the strings and the sound will be very sloppy and out of time. Remember, make sure  each note has definition.

As you practice sweep picking you will more than likely run into some other common problems. Guitarists who are familiar with “finger rolling” may complain about certain issues while others will remark about the pull off at the top of each arpeggio lacking the same dynamic tone as the other notes.

If you run into a lot of issues, Ultimate-Guitar has a really sweet guide dedicated to seven major (and common issues) with sweep picking. Keep in mind the general rule of “slower is better” when first learning and it will not be long before you too are mastering sweep picking!