Archive for the ‘Genre’ Category

Blues Guitar – The Essential Questions for Beginners

Tuesday, September 14th, 2010

Guitar Lessons Critic has always been drawn to the blues guitar. Do not ask us why. When you truly love an art, or a form of art (in this case blues music), sometimes you cannot truly describe why you love it. You can only feel it.

We always try to encourage a similar type of behavior when it comes to learning the guitar. Why? Like anything, you can over-think or over-analyze a new practice. Sure, you have to think when you learn the guitar. But you also have to let it come natural and sometimes just let your instincts take over.

The blues are quite possibly the greatest raw expression of emotions emulated through music. The blues have even expanded so far as to largely influence jazz as well as rock and roll. Consequently, it’s natural to want to learn an art that has been so influential on others.

…BUT the blues guitar is not for every beginner.

You must ask yourself three central questions. However, before we get into the specifics, let’s start with a very brief introduction of the blues and the crucial guitar elements to the genre.


Blues is a name representative of both a musical form and music genre that originated in African-American communities. The blues are characterized by the twelve-bar blues chord progressions and the blue notes. While based on a particular form, the blues genre also possesses other characteristics such as specific and often depressing lyrics, bass lines and instruments.

The guitar has generally played a very critical role to the blues…

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Question #1: Can YOU Play Chords?

Which brings us to the first question. Can you play guitar chords? If you cannot even play the most basic open chords, then blues guitar lessons are definitely not your most ideal starter lesson. Why? The basics of the blues revolve around the 12 bar blues pattern which requires you to understand the basic chords (A, B, C, D, E, F and G).

Chords are actually easier to learn than beginner guitarists might think at first glance. Several online videos and tutorials will present the basic knowledge and techniques needed to pick up these major and minor chords.

Question #2: Do YOU Understand the Guitar Neck?

We’re not talking about being able to locate the guitar neck on the instrument. We are, rather, talking about the knowledge or expertise that allows you to know the different places you can form chords on the neck. Yes, more than one location exists.

Do you understand the fret spacing between each note? If you have no idea what fret spacing is then, again, you’re probably not well suited for blues guitar lessons just yet. Fret spacing is a central element to blues because you essentially must memorize these in order to easily play blues chord progressions and scales in different keys.

You’ll probably note that most blues songs generally follow a very similar (and sometimes simple) pattern, but the trademark of the genre is how the guitarist often moves around the neck depending on the current key. If you are unsure of whether or not you’re playing in Key of A or Key of D then you should avoid blues lessons for now.

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Questions #3: Have YOU Ever Taken Lessons Before?

The term “beginner” is often tossed around loosely on GLC. When we talk about blues guitar for beginners we are assuming that you have some previous knowledge or instruction on the guitar. If you have never taken private lessons and/or learned from a self-taught course, then we would definitely advise you to spend at least two months to learn the sheer basics of the guitar before diving into blues guitar.

Terms to look up: string names, notes, chords, strumming techniques

Rest easy. You’ll be surprised by how fast you can pick up the basics of the guitar and how fast you can progress into blues guitar. However it would be a misconception to suggest that you can learn blues guitar from day one. Take the time to gain an understanding and appreciation for the guitar, and then transcend into the musical genre you desire to master.

…Until next time, best of luck strumming…

Jazz Guitar: The Sheer Basics

Thursday, July 22nd, 2010

Welcome to the wonderful world of jazz music.

Jazz has long at the epicenter of American music. It originated at the beginning of the 20th century in African American communities in the Southern United States from a confluence of African and European music traditions.

According to A New History of Jazz by Alyn Shipton, from its early development until the present, jazz has incorporated music from 19th and 20th century American popular music. Its West African pedigree is evident in its use of blue notes, improvisation, polyrhythms, syncopation, and the swung note.

However, Art Blakey has been quoted as saying, “No America, no jazz. I’ve seen people try to connect it to other countries, for instance to Africa, but it doesn’t have a damn thing to do with Africa.”

Regardless of what you connect as the origins of jazz, you will, no doubt, also attribute its impact on a variety of other sub-genres. From big-band in the 30s and 40s to bebop, Latin, funk, and hip- hop – jazz has left an impression.

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Naturally, it is then acceptable to see why so many aspiring guitarists want to learn jazz. This is especially true of people who have a deep rooted appreciation of music and belove the improv nature of this amazing genre.  

Every guitarist has his or her own style. Some are very traditional, like true “modern rock” or “metal” guitarists, while others find one style they like and add bits of influence from many other genres into their music.

That’s the beauty of music. There is no limitation.

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If you would like to make jazz your style, than you must first understand the basics, theory, and common practices of this special genre.

The jazz guitar can be a tough style to learn because it has a very distinctive sound to it. Whereas rock guitar and other styles utilize reverb and distortion to alter the sound of the instrument, jazz guitar is renown for its smooth sound. Thus, you must be able to hear the strings, not gain or distortion.

Improvisation, as previously mentioned, is not only a trademark but key element of jazz guitar. Improvisation is of course, a difficult skill and one of the few that is very hard to teach. For example, the most famous jazz guitarists such as Charlie Christian, Grant Green, Wes Montgomery, Pat Martino, and George Benson were already blessed with a natural ear for improv. 

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Improvisation is much more of a natural talent or skill than it is something you can acquire, however it is possible to heighten your senses to it by having an advanced understanding of scales, chords, and keys. These three elements are absolutely essential, as the leader of a jazz band will often call out a different key on the fly and expect everyone else in the group to immediately follow suit.

Learning different types of chords and scales is absolutely crucial. Chords like sustained chords and augmented fifths are simply regular chords with a note or two added and are great places to start with the jazz guitar. Also, individuals should practice scales beyond the regular pentatonic and chromatic scales to increase versatility.

At first glance, mastering the jazz guitar may appear a daunting feat and rest assured, it is a large challenge. However, it’s not impossible and with an advanced understanding and focus on chords, scales, keys, and improvisation, you too could become the next great jazz musician.

The Looper Pedal & The Guitar

Thursday, June 3rd, 2010

One very versatile and effective music product that has been lost in the massive wave of modern technology is the looper pedal. What exactly is a looper pedal? A looper pedal is a special little toy that will enable any guitarist the ability to produce loops from scratch.

If you want to be an excellent guitarist, practicing with a looper pedal is essential. Why? Few pastimes are as enjoyable as creating an entire song by yours truly. Musical creativity is endless when you have the chance to layer the chord progressions, bass lines, rhythms, and drum beats with one individual and with a single instrument.

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Did you know? Loop-based music was initially made popular by Robert Fripp, the musician who benefited from a stream of experiments involving tape loops.

What is great about looper pedals is A) how easy they are to use and B) their afford-ability. Looper pedals range from $160-$600 depending on the number of tracks recordable and other features. As a guitarist, you may have different aspirations for the loop pedal than that of a singer. Think about what you want to get out of a looper pedal and research accordingly.

Too often it’s easy to get suckered into the most expensive product with a million different features (a quarter of which you’ll probably use regularly). For example, if you are just looking for a pedal that will allow you to layer three or four different guitar tracks, than a $200-$250 looper pedal should do just fine.

Most looper pedals have similar functionality. One pedal is commonly reserved for recording, playing, and overdubbing. On the first tap, it records you playing, the second tap stops the recording and starts the looping, and a third tap allows you to overdub.

Guitarists may then build up their backing track with whatever other instruments they seem fit. Most loopers will also allow you to undo your last recording and it’s highly recommended that you invest in a looper with this capability. Secondly, look into pedals that allow the user to switch between different loops, reverse loops, play along to a drum track, as well as change the tempo of the recordings on the spot.

Over time, guitarists can build up their own backing track by adding to the existing loop. In loop terminology, this is known as overdubbing. Looping is fantastic for practice and jamming out at home, however you can also gig alone with one if you desire.

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Did you know? Fripp’s experiment with loops was successful enough that the musician ended up on a tour appropriately titled the Frippertronics Tour? It was here where Fripp brought delay and looping effects a step further into the mainstream.

Looping is a very cheap, simple, and effective way to record music. If you really want to get serious about your music, you’ll one day need to invest in higher quality recording and engineering devices. In the meantime, however, you may surely learn a lot from a looper pedal.

Ask most guitarists and they will tell you that having a backing track or variety of backing tracks is a great way to practice once you have moved past the basic lessons. Not everyone has the ability to call up three or four friends and meet for a quick jam session. People are busy and always working. Thus, you will have a lot of time where you’re only able to practice alone. Enter the pedal.

Once you purchase a looper pedal, try to make four or five different backing tracks. They do not have to be complex, but rather something that you can vibe well with and is easy to strum along to. Try to record a few different styles or genres, and mix up the tempo for further skill.

Click Here! For an excellent review of the five best looper pedals from 2010.

Beginner Songs for Acoustic Guitar

Saturday, April 24th, 2010

Regardless of the amount of time you have dedicated to the guitar, a lot of people tend to assess their skill level on the amount of songs they know how to play. While this “side by side” comparison makes sense, it also is not the most accurate way of dictating who can truly play the guitar.

It’s useful to learn songs - just as it’s vital to learn chords, bends, hammer on’s, and solos. Learning to play an actual song is highly valued because it often incorporates one or more of the above techniques while serving as a way to impress friends and loved ones.

For those of you who own an acoustic guitar, the decision of the song you want to learn may be different from one who owns an electric guitar. You more than likely purchased an acoustic guitar over an electric guitar for a number of different reasons. The most common reason people choose acoustic over electric is due to the genre or type of music they eventually want to play.

Acoustic guitars are synonymous with country, folk, bluegrass, and the occasional pop hit. Electric guitars, meanwhile, are more sought after in the modern, hard, and metal rock genres. Thus, beginner songs for the amateur guitarist vary based on the type of guitar you are using. 

The five songs listed below are all fantastic beginner songs for the acoustic guitar. Each of the five songs below only incorporate two different chords throughout the entire song, thus allowing little time to transition while learning a few of the basic chords.

- Beginner Songs for Acoustic Guitar -

1. Oh My Darlin’ Clementine

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If you grew up with the Huckleberry Hound cartoons, then you surely know the song “Oh My Darlin’ Clementine.” The song tells the story of a bereaved lover who lost his darling in the 1849 California Gold Rush and is also a prime candidate for the beginner acoustic guitarist. You can play this song with the D and A7 chords and use a 3/4 strum pattern. ”Oh My Darlin’ Clementine” also sounds nice with a bass strum, as the guitarist will now pick the fourth string on beat one of the D chords then strum twice, pick the fifth string on beat one of A7 chords, and strum twice.

2. Hush Little Baby

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“Hush Little Baby” is a another well-known song that’s easy to play. “Hush Little Baby” is a traditional lullaby in the ‘question and answer’ format. The lullaby was/and still is popular with parents as the lyrics promise all kinds of rewards to the child that is quiet. In order to play “Hush Little Baby,” use the C and G chords and a 4/4 up and down strum pattern.

3. Eleanor Rigby

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You may have thought that “two chord songs” are just for cartoon shows and lullabies, but you are indeed very wrong. Even a band as famous and critically renown as The Beatles used “two chord songs” every now and then. Take “Eleanor Rigby” for example. The song is very simple when stripped down to its musical content, but still a favorite from many of the Beatles faithful (ranked 137th in Rolling Stone’s 2004 list of the “500 Greatest Songs”). The song is a haunting tune about loneliness (from the 1966 album Revolver) and one you can play with the chords C and Em.

4. Paperback Writer

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Paul McCartney’s goal with “Paperback Writer” was to create a song with a melody backed by only a single chord. Well, it turns out, Sir Paul just missed the mark by one chord. ”Paperback Writer” was the Beatles eleventh single in 1966 and went to number one in several countries. McCartney may have missed his goal, but he still left us with a lively and dynamic acoustic guitar song that is perfect for beginners. The verse is played on a single G7 chord until ending on a C.

5. Born In The USA

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“Born in the U.S.A.”, a more recent hit from Bruce Springsteen, is still regarded as one of his greatest songs ever. Widely thought of as a patriotic anthem, the song does in fact educate the audience on the effects of the Vietnam War from the point of view of a veteran. The song ranked 275th on Rolling Stone’s list of the “500 Greatest Songs of All Time.”

In order to play “Born in the U.S.A.”; utilize the 4/4 time as you alternate between the B and E chords every two lines during the verses. For the chorus, play B for two “Born in the U.S.A.’s”, then E for the third, and finally B for the last.

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.

4-Handed Guitar: Awesome Video

Monday, October 12th, 2009

Wow…this is one of those YouTube videos you find that just blow you away.

I’ve been following the CandyRat Records guys, including Antoine Dufour and Tommy Gauthier (not to mention Andy McKee) for a long time now, and Antoine is one of my favorites on the label. He’s typically focused on crazy tunings and a chilled out acoustic rhythm/tapping style, but this quick country diddy barely even made him break a sweat.

20 Years of Blues Legends

Thursday, October 1st, 2009

Buddy Guy’s Legends has celebrated 20 years of incredible Blues musicians, and now that they’ve relocated just down the block (still in Chicago, of course), tickets just went on sale again! It looks like October is stacked with awesome blues already, so I’m looking forward to an awesome 21st year.

With Blues in mind, I decided to do some research and write an article on the history of blues music, and compile a free set of video blues guitar lessons. Enjoy!


Sweet Acoustic Tapping Video

Wednesday, September 9th, 2009

This is an old video from YouTube that I’ve watched at least a dozen times. It’s just so cool that I wanted to share it here:

Hope you enjoyed that as much as I do! If you’re into the “tapping” style, I’d recommend checking out Andy McKee as well. All of the guys at Candy Rat Records are really good at incorporating this difficult, high-octane, style with a strong foundation of classical guitar.