Archive for the ‘Guitar’ Category

Master Heavy Metal Guitar

Wednesday, July 13th, 2011

If you’re going to play guitar you might as well play loud, right?

Mastering heavy metal guitar is a highly admirable trait especially if you are a younger guiartist. Heavy metal is not the most strict genre in terms of having a lot of rules, but you need to make sure it’s loud and you need to play it fast. Consequently, heavy metal guitar is very demanding because the guitarist is often moving at a very quick rate.

Do you dream of mastering heavy metal guitar?

Let’s start with a little background. Heavy metal is a sub-genre of rock music. Metal first became big in the late-1960s and early 70s largely in the United Kingdom and United States. Heavy metal has roots in blues rock and psychedelic rock but is characteristically thicker sonically. The genre is also symmonious with amplified distortion, emphatic beats and a guitartist’s paradise — extended guitar solos.

Legendary bands like Led Zeppelin, Black Sabbath and Deep Purple are all associated with metal though the genre really came into its own when Judas Priest dropped a lot of the blues influence and made metal what it is today. Other pioneers in metal music include Motorhead and Iron Maiden.

Today, heavy metal is generally divided into two categories — the more popular, commercial-friendly metal (e.g. Metallica) and the more extreme/aggressive underground scene (Mastadon, Rammstein & Lamb of God). Unlike other genres, “metalheads” are usually pretty picky about what is classified as metal and what does not deserve to be associated with the genre. This could be related to the large number of heavy metal side-genres including thrash metal, death metal, black metal, nu metal, metalcore, extreme metal and hardcore punk.

The keys to becoming a heavy metal guitar master include:

  • Proper Tuning
  • Powerchords
  • Palm Muting
  • Hard Hitting Riffs
  • Fast Solos

Heavy metal music involves a lot of distortion and fast fingering making the genre a difficult one for beginners. If you just started picking up the guitar it’s important to begin with some basics (even if you’re ultimate goal is to play metal) because the genre is not terribly easy to master.

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When you play heavy metal you need the proper tuning. Traditional tuning for heavy metal guitar include:

  • Drop C
  • Drop B
  • Normal tuning down a tone

NOTE: Tuning with an electronic tuner is recommended because these tuning styles are difficult to get by “ear”.

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Heavy metal sounds the best with a TON of distortion. Therefore, it’s important to have a powerful amp because cheaper amplifers will probably not provide enough “juice” to really capture the meaty and raw sound of metal music.

The general formula for heavy metal features the use of heavy powerchords (traditionally during the verse, bridge and chorus) with a lot of open soloing. When you’re not soloing you’re probably playing powerchords. The good thing about powerchords is that they are easy to play. However, they will not get the effect you need unless you have a quality amp with lots of distortion.

Palm muting is a very important technique to learn if you want to master heavy metal guitar. In order to palm mute you must place your palm near the bridge. “Light palm muting” is when you slightly touch the stings while “Heavy palm muting” is, you guessed it, with much more pressure.

The vast majority of guitarists who want to play heavy metal do so because they are drawn to the intense solos of the genre. Can you really blame them? In order to do fast solos you obviously need fast fingers. You will develop speed picking and apreggios over years of practice. Be patient!

Along with all of the above tools, hammer-ons and pull-offs are both used heavily in heavy metal. The more practice with these two techniques the stronger your heavy metal skills.

If you are a beginner who loves heavy metal do not get frustrated. You will master heavy metal guitar before long. Like a lot of genres, heavy metal takes some time to learn, it’s heavily (no pun intended) recommended that you learn guitar basics first and invest in the proper equipment to really get that sound you need. It will not happen overnight but the avenue to becoming the next heavy metal guitar legend is only a few years of practice away!

100 Brilliant Guitar Riffs

Wednesday, July 6th, 2011

They are great because they’re brilliant.

The 100 Guitar Riffs (below) are brilliant for a reason. No one was able to quite capture the same guitar riff before them, they are still heavily intimiated to this day and ultimately they make the guitar what it is today.

If you love classic rock than chances are that several of your favorite guitar riffs fall under the list below. We love music because we love the instrument we play. It’s that simple.

Check out our 100 favorite guitar riffs below and be sure to add your own in the comments section below…

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  1. Smoke On The Water – Deep Purple
  2. (I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction – Rolling Stones
  3. Sunshine Of Your Love – Cream
  4. Layla – Derek And The Dominos
  5. Oh Pretty Woman – Roy Orbison
  6. Iron Man – Black Sabbath
  7. Johnny B Goode – Chuck Berry
  8. Heartbreaker – Led Zeppelin
  9. You Really Got Me – The Kinks
  10. Sweet Child O’ Mine – Guns N’ Roses
  11. Purple Haze – Jimi Hendrix Experienc
  12. Day Tripper – The Beatles
  13. Walk This Way – Aerosmith
  14. In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida – Iron Butterfly
  15. Whole Lotta Love – Led Zeppelin
  16. Sweet Home Alabama – Lynyrd Skynyrd
  17. Voodoo Child (Slight Return) – Jimi Hendrix Experience
  18. Paranoid – Black Sabbath
  19. Crazy Train – Ozzy Osbourne
  20. Back In Black – AC/DC
  21. Foxey Lady – Jimi Hendrix Experience
  22. Frankenstein – Edgar Winter
  23. Aqualung – Jethro Tull
  24. Bad To The Bone – George Thorogood & Destroyers
  25. Brown Sugar – Rolling Stones
  26. Summertime Blues – Eddie Cochran
  27. Money For Nothing – Dire Straits
  28. Jumpin’ Jack Flash – Rolling Stones
  29. American Woman – Guess Who
  30. Wild Thing – The Troggs
  31. Smells Like Teen Spirit – Nirvana
  32. Black Dog – Led Zeppelin
  33. Rebel Rebel – David Bowie
  34. Roadhouse Blues – The Doors
  35. Bo Diddley – Bo Diddley
  36. Breaking The Law – Judas Priest
  37. Runnin’ With The Devil – Van Halen
  38. Enter Sandman – Metallica
  39. The Hellion/Electric Eye – Judas Priest
  40. Outshined – Soundgarden
  41. Eye Of The Tiger – Survivor
  42. Hells Bells – AC/DC
  43. La Grange – ZZ Top
  44. Master Of Puppets – Metallica
  45. Kashmir – Led Zeppelin
  46. Sultans Of Swing – Dire Straits
  47. Rusty Cage – Soundgarden
  48. Ain’t Talkin’ ‘Bout Love – Van Halen
  49. Bring It On Home – Led Zeppelin
  50. Man On The Silver Mountain – Rainbow
  51. Panama – Van Halen
  52. Maybellene – Chuck Berry
  53. N.I.B. – Black Sabbath
  54. Pinball Wizard – The Who
  55. China Grove – The Doobie Brothers
  56. Stranglehold – Ted Nugent
  57. Ace Of Spades – Motorhead
  58. Wipeout – The Surfaris
  59. Paradise City – Guns N’ Roses
  60. Don’t Fear The Reaper – Blue Oyster Cult
  61. Five Minutes Alone – Pantera
  62. All Day And All Of The Night – The Kinks
  63. Up Around The Bend – Creedence Clearwater Revival
  64. Bulls On Parade – Rage Against The Machine
  65. Life In The Fast Lane – The Eagles
  66. Start Me Up – Rolling Stones
  67. Walk – Pantera
  68. Welcome To The Jungle – Guns N’ Roses
  69. I’m Broken – Pantera
  70. All Along The Watchtower – Jimi Hendrix Experience
  71. Under The Bridge – Red Hot Chili Peppers
  72. Working Man – Rush
  73. Are You Gonna Go My Way – Lenny Kravitz
  74. Pride And Joy – Stevie Ray Vaughan
  75. The Boys Are Back In Town – Thin Lizzy
  76. Whipping Post – Allman Brothers Band
  77. Aenima – Tool
  78. You Shook Me All Night Long – AC/DC
  79. School Day – Chuck Berry
  80. Born To Run – Bruce Springsteen
  81. Honey Don’t – Carl Perkins
  82. Moby Dick – Led Zeppelin
  83. Rockin’ In The Free World – Neil Young
  84. Wake Up Little Susie – Everly Brothers
  85. Taxman – The Beatles
  86. The Ocean – Led Zeppelin
  87. Lola – The Kinks
  88. Hangar 18 – Megadeth
  89. Sharp Dressed Man – ZZ Top
  90. Thunderstruck – AC/DC
  91. Politician – Cream
  92. The Trooper – Iron Maiden
  93. I Feel Fine – The Beatles
  94. Spirit Of Radio – Rush
  95. Hallowed Be Thy Name – Iron Maiden
  96. Man On A Mission – Van Halen
  97. Fear Of The Dark – Iron Maiden
  98. Raining Blood – Slayer
  99. Scuttle Buttin – Stevie Ray Vaughan
  100. Hysteria – Muse

Essential Guitar Chords for Beginners

Wednesday, June 29th, 2011

Technically, anyone can “play” the guitar. However, you cannot really play a song until you learn some chords. Thankfully, a TON of popular songs only require a few basic chords and no it’s not just limited to “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star”. In fact, once you journey three or four months deep into learning the guitar you will find that a vast majority of songs only require a few common chords.

Consequently, if you learn the essential guitar chords for beginners you will gain immediate access to a plethora of worthwhile tunes. Master the five beginner chords below and you’re well on your way to learning the guitar. Chords like C, D, & E Major are very important because once you know how to play the G Chord in “Silent Night” you also know how to play the G Chord on every other song that features it. Pretty cool, eh?

ABOUT THE CHORDS: All of the chords below are major chords and commonly found in contemporary music. In order to learn more about chords, namely what separates a major chord from a minor chord you should reference this beginner’s guide to scales.

The A Major Chord

The A major (often referred to as an “A chord”, and sometimes written as “Amaj”) might logically come across as the first chord you should learn because of its position in the alphabet. Unfortunately, the A major chord is a little tricky for beginners because all three fingers need to fit on the second fret (tab below). It’s especially difficult for guitarists with larger fingers.

Whenever you strum a guitar chord you need to make sure that not only all of the strings that are fretted ring clearly but also the open strings. For beginners, it’s a notorious mistake to fret a chord correctly but have one of your fingers bumping into the higher or lower open string therefore altering the correct sound of the chord. Successfully playing chords (as well as shifting between chords during a song) will become easier over time. Practice, practice, practice!

Eight Guitar Chords You Need to Learn Now!

The C Major Chord

Despite the A Major chord taking precedence in the alphabet (as well as this article); the C chord is actually the first chord most beginner guitarists learn. We agree with this approach.

The fingering of the C Major is really straightforward and a much easier position when compared to the A chord. Once again, make sure your first finger is curled correctly or you will likely run into issues with your open strings not ringing properly.

Eight Guitar Chords You Need to Learn Now!

The D Major Chord

Welcome to the D major chord, another very common beginner guitar chord en route to mastering the guitar.

The D major, like most of the chords in this lesson, are pretty easy to finger and only add to their popularity. However, that is not to say that chords like D major are only limited to beginner songs. In fact, you would be surprised to learn how many of your favorite songs feature the D major (or any of the chords listen in this section).

When you play the D chord pay special attention to the third finger (fretting the second string), because a lot of beginners do not properly curl their finger and thus the string lacks tone when it rings. DO NOT strum the fifth and sixth strings.

Eight Guitar Chords You Need to Learn Now!

The E Major Chord

The popular E major chord is found in a lot of music. When you play the chord pay special attention to the first finger (third string). Unlike the D major chord, you strum all six strings, including the open first, second and sixth strings.

The E chord is unique because two correct ways exist to actually play the chord. For certain songs, the guitarist will find it easier to reverse their second and third fingers. Practice playing the chord both ways.

Eight Guitar Chords You Need to Learn Now!

The G Major Chord

When you play the G major chord focus on the curling of the first finger. Like the E major chord you’re going to need to strum all six strings. Also, the G chord is another example of where a subtle alternate hand positioning makes sense in particular cases. Can you guess the alternate positioning?

No more excuses! You now have access to five essential guitar chords for beginners. Master these simple chords and you will know how to play literally thousands of songs!

Eight Guitar Chords You Need to Learn Now!

What other chords would you define as essential for beginners?

Thanks to for the visuals.

10 Amazing Guitar Apps

Monday, June 20th, 2011

Today is all about the app.

You know, applications that make your life easier and/or more enjoyable.

Believe it or not, but there are a variety of really useful guitar apps available for download. Some are free, others cost a few bucks, but none of them will set you back very far.

Check out 10 amazing guitar apps below…

Fretsurfer Guitar Trainer

This basic app helps users master the fretboard though two game setups. In the first, note and string information are employed to find the corresponding fret. Meanwhile, the second fret information is used to find the correct note. Fretsurfer Guitar Trainer also features a really useful statistical database including your fretboard strengths AND weaknesses. $2.99


GUITARTOOLKIT provides a chromatic tuner, a chord library with over half a million chords, a scale reference guide as well as a metronome with tap-tempo pad. Also play bass? Banjo? The app accommodates everything from six and 12 string guitars and even makes a subtle transition for lefty guitarists. $9.99

Guitar Jam Tricks

Guitar Jam Tricks features an hour’s worth of professionally recorded backing tracks in a particular style with five versions currently available: Acoustic Blues, Humbucker Blues (guitar and bass) and Reggae (guitar and bass). The app is easy to use. Simply pick a key, select a major or minor progression and solo away. $1.99

Guitarist’s Reference

The app provides a chord and scale primer with an incredible 3,000+ chord encyclopedia and information on more than 40 scale types. If you need a resource for practically any chord and scale available the Guitarist’s Reference is definitely for you. $4.99

Guitar Tools

Guitar Tools packages together several of Planet Waves’ popular offerings, including Chordmaster and Scale Wizard. The app also boosts a tuner and metronome as well as access to instructors in your area and music store locator. $8.99


iSHRED is a virtual guitar that lets you import high-quality guitar samples through eight effect units — including fuzz, treble boost, wah and distortion. iSHRED also features an overdriven amp simulator. Record your jams and share them via AirPlay. $4.99

Lick of the Day

Lick of the Day is one of the best apps available as Zakk Wylde, Joe Satriani and Gus G all endorse the product. Not only that, but the guitarists also provide expert advice via the lessons. Lick of the Day is intended for the advanced guitarist looking to master challenging guitar licks. Lick of the Day is available upon subscription.


PocketGuitar is one of the easiest virtual guitar apps available. Simply press your fingers on the “strings,” strum your hand across the screen and the notes ring out. $0.99


TabToolKit displays standard and tab notation with a virtual fretboard. A built-in audio synthesis engine enables users to hear and control audio for all instrument tracks individually as well as speed up and slow down the tempo. TabToolKit is one of the most interactive guitar tab apps on the market. $9.99

Ultimate Guitar Tabs

Designed from the creators of, the app features 300,000 tabs also found on the website. It’s easily the largest guitar tab library available. Access your favorites by either artist or song title; narrow your search by type (guitar, bass, drum, chords), part of the song (intro, solo, chorus), diffculty level, tuning and rating. $2.99

What is Chicken Picking?

Monday, June 13th, 2011

Ever heard the term chicken picking? Hybrid picking?

The concept may sound goofy (or even complicated) but chicken picking (aka hybrid picking) is a lead guitar picking technique used often in country music. The technique, also found in rock and metal, is accomplished by plucking the strings outward, or, away from the fretboard instead of parallel to the fretboard with the fingers of the right hand. Consequently, the note is immediately dampened by increasing the pressure of the left hand’s finger on the fret.

The reason guitarists utilize chicken picking is because the style provides a very specific sound that often goes great with country music. Hybrid picking also serves a valuable purpose as you will find with the picking technique certain notes are actually easier to reach with your right, and not left hand.

To hear a 45 second guitar solo with chicken picking CLICK HERE!

Chicken picking will take some time to master so don’t get frustrated if the style is not immediately picked up. When you play country guitar, most individuals prefer to use a clean, telecaster sound with very few — if any effects. Some guitarists might introduce a little reverb, compression or delay but country is a very organic genre and does not require a lot of digital effects.

Country music does, however, have some specific styles that make the genre distinctive and hybrid picking is a fantastic way to get the quick popping sound that you have probably heard a hundred times yet may not recognize immediately as chicken picking.

Since it can be a little difficult to achieve the quick, popping percussive sound of hybrid picking some guitarists recommend using a thumb pick. The thumb pick is important because it frees the right index finger to play strings and pop them whenever you feel like it. For some reason, the index finger is traditionally the perfect size and weight for hybrid picking.

Country music is NOT dependent on one set of scales, like rock or blues. Instead, a good country guitarist understands how to play over the chords much like bluegrass or jazz. Every chord has different lines, chord shapes or riffs associated with it. The more experienced the country guitarist, the more tricks he or she has for a chord.

Beginners need to master a few basic chords like C, D, E, G and A.

Another thing you should understand about country is that the genre uses a great deal of first position playing, based on chord shapes like bluegrass. This means the riffs played revolve around the chord shape, not just the notes in the chord but others around the chord.

For a good example, find out to play a lick based on a D7 chord thanks to

lick 1

Want to learn more about the country guitar? Check out

Beginning Mistakes that Last a Lifetime

Monday, June 6th, 2011

Ever heard the saying “a moment of pleasure lasts a lifetime of pain”?

Okay, it may not be the most appropriate slogan for beginner mistakes on guitar, but with just enough practice of poor habits and you guessed it…they’ll last a lifetime. Unless, of course, you learn the guitar the right way in the first place.

If you played sports growing up you probably remember your coach stressing — fundamentals, fundamentals, fundamentals. Chances are you hated this term after awhile because it usually represented something that was boring, mundane and completely unnecessary. Consequently, you probably asked the question what’s the point of fundamentals?

Similar to sports, the best guitarists began with fundamentals and then eventually progressed to more complicated skills. You can’t dunk before you shoot and you can’t master the guitar before you learn the basics. Avoid the common beginner mistakes (below) and your possibility of playing with bad habits for a lifetime will cease to disappear.

I’m a Master Guitarist from Day One

Mastering the guitar will take a lot of time.

If the above statement is not obvious then perhaps you should reassess your goals. Regardless of your age, learning the guitar takes time. Some are a little quicker learners, but you need at least six months to a year to even begin to realize the potential of the guitar.

Stick with it, start small, start simple.

I’m too Impatient to Learn Guitar

Impatience has an awful lot to do with why some expect to master guitar from day one. Unfortunately, as technology becomes more sophisticated and quicker, humans are losing the virtue of patience. The guitar, however, has not progressed at the same rate and learning the instrument is much like it was ten, twenty and even a hundred years prior. Today, more information and guitar resources exist but the method for learning guitar is pretty much the exact same.

If you have the patience, exercise it fully. If not, you better learn to get some. Of course, having a natural desire to play guitar always helps as we naturally have a tendency to stick with a subject that we’re passionate about to begin with.

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One Chord at a Time

If you just started learning guitar you have probably already heard about how important chords are to mastering the guitar.

Unfortunately, a lot of beginners only want to master one chord before moving on to the next. Big mistake. It’s important to learn (and master) the major chords, but not practice them one by one. Instead, learn three to four different chords and experiment shifting between chords with a metronome. At first, this will be very frustrating but over time you will master fingerings much faster and strengthen fingers. The result is a better guitarist.

Forget the Pinky

Throughout the day, regardless of the activity, how often do you use your thumb? Index finger? Pinky?

We have ten fingers, five pairs of each, and humans almost always neglect the power of our pinkies until we understand how important they are to the hand. Pinkies are not only helpful with day-to-day chores but also playing the guitar.

Naturally, when you first start playing almost all guitarists will find that fretting with the index and middle finger are easiest while the ring and pinky finger lack the same strength. In order to solve this dilemma practicing every day will slowly built up finger strength on all four fingers of the left hand (assuming you’re right handed).

However, you can take things a step further by focusing on one simple practice technique. Whenever you play, your fingers should be hovering over the strings of your guitar ALL OF THE TIME. Therefore, when you form a D chord your pinky finger should be hovering somewhere over the high E string or B and likewise for all other chords.

Music Theory, Who needs it?

Music theory is a lot like fundamentals. Boring at first, but completely vital to fully learning (and understanding) the guitar.

Aside from the basics of What is a Scale? What are major and minor chords? What is rhythm? Harmony? — Beginners can also learn a lot by understanding the root note of a chord. The root note is the bass note. It determines which string you should start strumming or picking from and is important for not only learning chords but understanding the relationship between you and the bassist.

Master Jazz Guitar

Tuesday, May 31st, 2011

Jazz is one of the most important and influential genres of music that was EVER created. From its origins in the beginning of the 20th century to present day, jazz music has not only made an impact as a genre but also influenced American popular music.

Therefore, jazz’s West African pedigree is evident today with its blue notes, improvisation, polyrhythms, syncopation and the swung note. Guitarists who desire to learn jazz guitar will ultimately learn about several subgenres of jazz music:

  • 1910s — New Orleans Dixieland
  • 1930s and 1940s — Big Band Swing
  • mid-1940s — Bebop
  • 1950s and 1960s — Free Jazz
  • 1970s — Jazz Fusion
  • 1980s — Acid Jazz (include Funk & Hip-Hop)
  • 1990s — Nujazz

Think about it. What other genre of music do you know that has been around since the 20th century in America, spread around the world and its aesthetics adapted to varied environments and many different distinctive styles?

If you want to be a great guitarist it’s only natural that you want to master jazz guitar. What do you need to know?

Guitar Scales

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The Modes

What are modes? How do you play them on guitar? What do they have to do with improvisation?

The Bebop Scale

The bebop scale, a technique first used by Charlie Parker and other pioneer bebop musicians, is at the foundation of jazz music. Learn the Bebop scale and you’ve made the first step toward mastering jazz guitar.

The Lydian Dominant Scale

Tritone substitution is a common substitution for dominant chords. The lydian dominant scale is the scale you can use to improvise over such chords.

The Pentatonic Scale for Jazz Guitar

The pentatonic scale (or blues scale) is usually the first scale you learn on the guitar. Learning about how groundbreaking the pentatonic scale is not only important for mastering jazz guitar but music in general.

Pentatonic scales are often used to do a guitar solo in blues, rock and pop music, but they are also very useful in jazz.

The Altered Scale

The altered scale is used to improvise over dominant chords with altered extensions.


Ready for that “jazz sound”? Chromatics allow you to put some jazz into your guitar scales

Minor Blues Guitar Scales

There is always a major scale and a minor scale. Look into some of the more important minor blues guitar scales to understand the basic concepts of jazz.

Exotic Guitar Scales

What are exotic guitar scales? If you really want a challenge look into Arabian, Japanese, Oriental, Jewish, Indian, Gypsy and other exotic guitar scales.

Dissononance, Note Enclosure & Resolution

What is dissononance? Resolution? Note enclosure? Find out how these musical elements will allow you to master jazz guitar, particular solos.

Guitar Arpeggios & Jazz Patterns

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What exactly is an arpeggio? Furthermore, how would you classify a jazz guitar arpeggio? Understanding arpeggios and how they directly relate to jazz guitar is essential to the experience.

Jazz Guitar Patterns

Patterns are small melodic or rhythmic building blocks for your guitar solos and phrases.

Triads Over Minor Chords

Create interesting melodic phrases on minor chords by alternating triads. The result is a more diversified sound.

Jazz Style

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As previously mentioned, there are several different styles of jazz. Do you want to master Latin guitar? Bebop? Master jazz guitar in general. A few of the vital subgenres of jazz:

  • Bebop
  • Gypsy Jazz Guitar
  • Jazz Blues Guitar
  • Latin Guitar

Guitar Technique & Practice Essentials

If you really want to master jazz guitar it’s going to take some time. Thankfully, a ton of phenomenal resources exist on the Web. Of course, you can always check out one of our top rated guitar courses to really learn jazz guitar HERE!

Stay disciplined with great practice techniques (warm-up exercises, finger stretching exercises, timing drills) and you’re well on your way to learning jazz guitar. If you love jazz music then you have the necessary interest to stay the course and one day learn to play your favorite songs!

What should I learn first — Chords or Scales?

Monday, May 23rd, 2011

If you are really serious about learning the guitar then you need to know that playing the instrument is much more than looking up guitar tabs on the Internet. Thus, it’s vital that beginner guitarists begin with the sheer basics of the instrument.

Learning chords and scales may sound boring, but it’s absolutely fundamental to mastering the guitar. Why? When you first start playing the instrument you may feel like you’re blind, mindlessly wandering around the neck fretting random places without any clue as to why. However, with a solid understanding of guitar scales and guitar chords, you can immediately understand not only what you’re doing but why.

If your goal, as the next great guitarist, is to learn to play and create music then you MUST learn about scales and chords.

…But what comes first?

Before we get too far, let’s examine each term.

Chord - a group of (typically three or more) notes sounded together, as a basis of harmony.

Scale - in music, a scale is a group of musical notes collected in ascending and descending order, that provides material for or is used to conveniently represent part or all of a musical work including melody and/or harmony.

In the event that you did not already notice from the definitions (above), chords and scales are essential to the harmony of creating and playing music. They allow us to easily organize individual notes into a formula that actually makes sense.

How many guitar chords exist?

It may sound like a logical question, but asking how many guitar chords exist is an awful lot like asking how many colors can be found in a rainbow. Theoretically, the color wheel has three primary colors, but with those primary colors an artist is basically able to create an infinite amount of variations.

Such is the case with guitar chords.

Consider this: There are 12 notes in an octave, most guitars have either three or four octaves, thus with standard tuning (or even non-standard tuning) there is anywhere between 40,000 and 450,000,000 chord possibilities.

Thankfully, you do not need to memorize every single chord available. In fact, if you can learn the standard barre chords and the Major/Minor/7th/Minor 7th/Major 7th — you will be well informed. The basics break down like this:

  • 12 major chords
  • 12 minor chords
  • 12 7th chords
  • 12 Minor 7th chords
  • 12 Major 7th chords

Pretty easy, right? Considering that if you can master the 60 chords above you should be well on your way to learning the guitar since most songs only require three to four chords.

Okay, so how do guitar scales come into the equation?

Just like guitar chords, there are several different scales available for the guitarist’s arsenal and just like guitar chords, you do not have to know every single scale to be a professional guitarist.

Rather, scales are an extremely useful tool for not only understanding how the guitar works but what makes good music. Again, in music, a scale is a group of musical notes collected in ascending and descending order, that provides material for or is used to conveniently represent part or all of a musical work including melody and/or harmony.

A lot of aspiring musicians are really put off by scales because A) they falsely believe learning scales limits their creativity or B) are only necessarily if you want to be good at solos.

Actually, those two misconceptions could not be further from the truth. Learning scales is extremely useful because if you only limit yourself to playing standard chords you will never break out of the ordinary. You MUST connect your chords with scales. If you need a literal example, most would agree that no one was better at mixing chords with scales than Jimi Hendrix.

Learning scales will only enhance your understanding of music theory, therefore making you a stronger musician. Scales are there to support your melodies, arrangements, harmonies, but by no means a substitution for inspiration.

Simply put, lack of understanding of scales will foolishly force to erratically wander around the fretboard for years until you unconsciously learn to find the strong notes. However, with scales you can discover the “strong notes” in weeks or months.

What should I learn first — Chords or Scales?

The traditional response is scales first, chords second. However, some innovative guitar teachers are actually preaching the exact opposite. The theory for the later is that scales actually complement chords. Because the scale is defined by its root note, the chords are hidden inside the scale and by learning chords first you will in turn know more about the scale.

Truthfully, learning chords or scales first might come down to personal preference (if you’re self-taught) or the decision of your private instructor. The order is important, but not nearly important as making sure that you learn both scales and chords efficiently. They both matter, so take the time to learn them!

Quick Music Term Reference

Saturday, May 14th, 2011

When you first pick up a guitar (especially if you bought one of those “starter/beginner packs”) it’s really easy to take the guitar out of the box, hook-up the amp and start playing.

However, somewhere between that point in time and the day when you become comfortable playing the guitar (likely a few months down the road) a lot of guitarists generally miss out on something that is fundamental to not only the guitar but music. What is it? An understanding of musical theory, philosophies and most importantly terms.

If you have played guitar for months or years you likely understand a lot of the terms below without actually knowing their name. However, it’s important to get the language down to truly consider yourself a musician.

Thankfully, we have put together a collection of commonly used, yet often confusing words that relate to music. Do your homework and your understanding of music will increase just that much more.

Chord: two or more notes played simultaneously.

Chord Tone: selected notes of a chord (i.e. G, B and D are all chord tones of a G major chord).

Fifth: an interval composed of seven half steps. The interval between the 1st and 5th step of the major scale is a fifth, or perfect fifth.

Flat: the musical symbol that indicates to lower the pitch of a note by one half step (reference half step).

Half Step: distance of one fret on fret board.

Interval: the distance between two pitches.

Key: tonal center or main pitch to which all others in a composition are related.

Major 3rd: an interval composed of four half steps (or four frets). The interval between the 1st and 3rd step of the major scale is a major third.

Major Chord: a chord consisting of root, major 3rd and perfect 5th.

Major Scale: the seven note scale to which all Western (American and European) music is compared. The major scale is: whole step, whole step, half step, whole step, whole step, whole step, half step OR symbolized by the “do, re, mi, fa, so, la, ti, do” saying. The G minor notes in order are G, A, B, C, D, E, F.

Minor Chord: a chord consisting of root, minor 3rd and perfect 5th.

Minor Scale: seven note scale with the following intervallic formula: whole step, half step, whole step, whole step, half step, whole step, and whole step.

Minor Scale (Pentatonic): five note scale derived from the natural minor scale. The Pentatonic scale leaves out the 2nd and 6th steps of the natural minor scale, creating the following intervallic formula: minor 3rd, whole step, whole step, minor 3rd, whole step.

Minor 3rd: an interval composed of three half steps (or three frets).

Mute: to muffle or lightly muffle desired strings. Can be achieved by lightly touching the strings with the fingers of the fretting hand or with the heel of the picking hand.

Octave: an interval composed of 12 half steps.

Open string: when a string is played but not fretted.

Root: the lowest note of a chord in the fundamental position (i.e. G is the root of a G chord).

Scale: a series of tones that follow an intervallic formula within one octave.

Sharp: the musical symbol that indicates to raise the pitch of a note one half step.

Tonic: the key note of a scale (i.e. A is the tonic of the A minor pentatonic scale).

Vibrato: the sound achieved by wavering the pitch of a specific note.

Whole Step: distance of two half steps (or two frets).

Want more music theory? Visit or They are both phenomenal references for beginner music theory.

Guitar vs. Bass Guitar — How do they compare and differ?

Saturday, May 7th, 2011

Unless you’re playing an acoustic show alone, the beautiful thing about live music is that it almost always consists of multiple people playing multiple instruments.

Consequently, it’s easy for those new to music to get confused about who is playing electric guitar and who is playing electric bass. Both instruments, especially from a distance, look very similar. They’re both string instruments, are composed of a body, neck and head and are played just about the same.

Let’s start with the basics:

Electric Guitar: A stringed instrument usually having six strings (non-standard 7-string and 12-string guitars also exist) with a sound that  is amplified by electrical means.

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Bass Guitar: A stringed instrument usually having four strings (non-standard 5-string and 6-string basses also exist) with a sound that is amplified by electrical means.

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As a result, the very first physical difference you should notice between an electric guitar and the bass is the number of the strings. Additionally, strings of a bass are generally quite thicker.

Now, let’s examine the notes of each instrument…

Guitar (thinnest string to thickest)

1st string – E

2nd string – B

3rd string – G

4th string – D

5th string – A

6th string – E

Bass (thinnest string to thickest)

1st string – G

2nd string – D

3rd string – A

4th string – E

Did you notice that the last four strings of a guitar are the exact same as the four standard bass strings? That makes the bass practically the guitar minus two guitar strings, right?


The first string on a 6-string bass is actually equivalent to the sixth string of a guitar. Furthermore, if the guitar had a seventh string it would not be thinner, but actually thicker. Essentially, the missing seventh string would have the same exact pitch as the second string on a 6-string bass.

The contrast in the two stringed instruments is exactly what makes them so special when combined together. You may or may not not know that the guitar is generally used for two purposes — either to serve as lead guitar or rhythm guitar. Sometimes, a band has multiple guitarists with one serving as the lead and one or/more serving as the rhythm guitar(s).

The bass guitar traditionally works more with the rhythm guitar compared to the lead guitar, because the primary purpose of the bass is to aide the drums (and percussion) in the rhythm of the song. There are, of course, differences as certain bands (i.e. Primus) are actually regarded for their bass and often it almost takes the role of the lead in the song.

Thus, the bass guitar exists to:

  1. Provide the rhythmic foundation.
  2. Provide the harmonic foundation.

The bass guitar and drums work well together because they are usually designed to play a supportive role to create the pulse of the music (as well as set the song’s foundation). When is the last time you found yourself tapping your foot to a beat unintentionally? That is your instinct to vibe to the pulse, or beat of the music. Bass and/or drums create the pulse.

The Major Difference

Simply, the major difference between the guitar and bass guitar is the pitch range of the instruments. The bass guitar plays notes an octave lower than a regular guitar.

Music is an art and thus there are no rules. You will find that the bass guitar traditionally plays a supportive role in the band while the guitar (with it’s higher range) is more in the spotlight. However, some bands make the guitar more of a supportive instrument. Others, do not even have a guitar at all. Regardless, the two instruments are usually very critical and at the foundation of rock ‘n roll music.

If you are a guitarist, you can learn an awful lot from watching bass guitar lessons and conversing with bass players. The same is true with bassists.