Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Finger-style Accompaniments: Theme and Variations

Here is a collection of finger-style patterns for many musical occasions. The patterns are broken into two categories: Patterns in 4/4 time and patterns in 3/4 time. Even though music can be played in many different types of time signatures, 4/4 and 3/4 are among the most common. These patterns can be starting points for even more exploration.

Alternating Thumb and finger pluck:



Plucking Arpeggios:
An arpeggio is also known as a broken chord. Rather than strumming the notes of the chord together, an arpeggio breaks them up.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Reflect on the Music: A Guitar Forum

Rudolph the Red-Nosed (alternating bass note - guitar arrangement) Reindeer

This arrangement of Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer makes use of the alternating bass style we have been exploring as a finger style technique, and makes it work in a pick-style manner.

The opening uses some nice chords in the intro. These should be strummed and made to ring behind the vocal line.

You can follow the chord changes because they are lined up with the familiar vocal line.

Rudolph the Red-Nosed Arrangement

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Seasonal Music for Finger-style Guitar

This time of year is a great time for music. To that end, I have written you a short finger-style arrangement of a seasonal classic, Jingle Bells.
This arrangement is just for the chorus section and not the verse. Perhaps I can add that at a later time, but it is slightly more complicated and I thought this would be a good starting point. Technically this arrangement is meant to challenge you to keep your thumb moving and alternating. The thumb is such an important part of "driving" the rhythm in finger-style playing. I have added an audio clip of this arrangement to give you an idea of how it could sound.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Techniques and Concepts to review

We have been studying a lot of techniques and concepts over the past few months. While all the posts that have been presented in the blog are important in their own way for helping you develop as a guitarist and a musician, I wanted to compile a few that will be the basis for assessing your progress as we head to 2nd quarter progress report time.

Finger Style Pattern

E minor Pentatonic

The Major Scale (G)

Reggae Style (left hand muting)

Primary Chord Round-up

I will be asking you to play some or all of the musical examples from these posts. In addition, I will be asking you questions about the techniques and concepts to help me get a sense of your understanding beyond the playing.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Fingerstyle Patterns for Guitar Part 1

Today we started breaking down a foundational fingerstyle pattern by using the opening of the song Home by Phillip Phillips. The important first step is making sure your thumb remains constant and alternating between the 5th and 4th string.

Here is video demonstrating the pattern and the components that build the above fingerstyle pattern.

Thursday, November 21, 2013


Next up in our exclamation point series is the natural consequence of the Hammer-On!
The Pull-Off is basically the reverse of the Hammer-On principal. Instead of striking a string and hammering up to the next note, a Pull-Off! begins with plucking a fretted note and then pulling the finger off allowing a note below to sound.

Here is what the notated E minor pentatonic scale looks like with pull-offs.
Just like the hammer-on, the pull-off is notated with the slur symbol.

Here is a video of the above example and an overview of the pull-off principal.

For the more advanced or adventurous players, here is a cool double pull-off lick used by Randy Rhoads, the one-time guitarist of Ozzy Osbourne.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013


The Hammer-on technique is prized by guitarists because it can help them play fluid connected, lines without resorting to a lot of extra picking.
Basically a hammer-on is exactly what it sounds like. You "hammer" a note "on" to the neck of the guitar with your fretting hand instead of plucking a fretted note with your pick.
This technique takes a little while to get used to but has many applications and can create flashy scale passages across the neck of the guitar.

Here is our E minor pentatonic scale played with hammer-ons. The notation symbol for the hammer-on is a line called a slur which connects the notes involved in the "hammer"

Here is a quick video that demonstrates the hammer-on technique using the E minor pentatonic scale that we have been studying.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

GarageBand now free for iOS7!

Run! don't walk to your nearest App store and download GarageBand. It is now available for free with iOS7 devices. That iPad in your hands is about to become a musical playground. When I first got this app for iPad I was completely amazed that it could do what it did and only cost me $4.99. Now you will not have to suffer the loss of nearly $5 to have this app for your very own.

This post will not go through all the features of GarageBand, suffice to say that once you download it just start playing and exploring. I think you will be impressed.


Monday, November 18, 2013

E minor Pentatonic

It is said that when Prometheus was stealing fire from the Gods, he also grabbed the pentatonic scale for the expressed intent of making guitar players very happy. The 5 note pentatonic scale is an incredibly useful scale. Because the scale removes the "trouble" notes (4th and 7th), the happy guitarist can bang away at the remaining notes without fear of "wrong" sounding notes.

Another great feature of the scale is it's universal sonic qualities. Technically it is a minor scale, but it is equally effective playing over Major sounding chord progressions.

|Em / / / | Am / / / |
Try the scale over these minor chords and you will hear how it smoothly connects with the minor quality of the chords. A song like "Wish You Were Here" by Pink Floyd is a good illustration of how a minor progression and the minor pentatonic scale work hand-in hand.

|E / / / | A / / / |
When using major chords and the minor pentatonic scale you tend to get more of a bluesy sound. Jimi Hendrix was masterful at combining major blues progressions and using the minor pentatonic to get down and dirty.

For our more advanced (or adventurous) players, here is a cool pattern that makes use of descending groups of 4 notes within the scale. Patterns such as this one helps to get a lot of mileage from the 5 note scale.


Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Common Chord Progression

We have been studying the sound and construction of the G Major Scale.

If you take it a step further and build chords on each of the scale notes you get something that looks like this:

The big chords in this key are the primary chords (I, IV, and V7) G, C, and D7. These are the chords that outline the key and are used in hundreds and hundreds of songs and a entire genre of music (The Blues). 

Another chord progression that is incredibly common is the chord progression 
G, Em, Am, D7    (I, vi, ii, V7) . This chord progression makes use of primary (I, IV, V7) AND secondary chords (ii, iii, vi, vii). Like the I, IV, V7 progression, this progression has been used in hundreds of songs and will probably sound familiar to you as you build up clarity and smooth transitions between chords.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

The Major Scale: The building block of music

In class we discussed the construction of the Major Scale. Specifically we talked about the formula of intervals that is the backbone of the scale.

Ricci Adams, on his site, has a clear and simple to follow explanation of major scale construction.

If we want to build a major scale starting on G, the notes would look like this:

When we apply the formula: W W H W W W H
The notes of the scale become this:
G A C D E F# G

and the scale looks like this:

Play through the scale and listen to the sound of the notes and take notice of the distances between each note.

Understanding the idea of interval distances between notes will help you to understand the relationship between chords and how to find them on the neck of the guitar.

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Partial Chords- Reggae- 3 Little Birds- Somewhere Over the Rainbow

We are starting to explore how to play in various musical styles by changing the way we play strumming patterns and chord shapes. In addition, Reggae will introduce the idea of muting with your fretting hand as opposed to the strumming hand mute we have been playing.

When starting to play Reggae it is important to look at different chord shapes that move the sound a bit higher on the neck of the guitar. When we use partial chords it allows us to mute with the left hand (see video) and not have all the jangly open strings. Because Reggae is a staccato style (meaning the rhythms are shorter and detached) we need to be able to control the length of the sound

Below you will see sample chord voicings that move your basic open chords higher up on the neck. It is important when you play these chords to avoid hitting the open strings.

3 Little Birds Audio File

Somewhere Over the Rainbow
Using Upper Position Chord Shapes

G                  D                         C           G
Somewhere over the rainbow way up high
C             G                            D                      Em     Cthere's a land that i heard of once in a lulla--by
G                  D                            C             GSomewhere over thew rainbow skies are blue
C            G                                  D                                  Em        Cand the dreams that you dare to dream really do come true
           G                                            D                                              Em           CSome day i'll wish upon a star and wake where the clouds are far behind me
             G                                               D                                                     Em Where troubles melt like lemon drops away upon the chimney tops thats where
            C  you'll find me
G                  D                          C               GSomewhere over the rainbow blue birds fly
C              G                            D                                G  Birds fly over the rain--bow why then oh why can't I
{{{pause with birds chirping}}}

Monday, October 28, 2013

Guitar 1: Quarter 1 Self Reflection

All students in Guitar 1 must complete a 1st quarter self reflection survey. The purpose of the survey is to help gauge your achievement in the course at the halfway point of the semester and help me direct or redirect the class moving forward. Your honest feedback will help us all improve.

Self Reflection Survey

Friday, October 25, 2013

Friday Review!

Here is a compilation of recent posts. Guitarists should review the concepts, techniques and theory behind these posts.

Ode to Joy!- Single note reading on the first 2 strings and chord accompaniment

Embellished Chords- Introducing Major 7th chords to your playing.

Power Chords!- The staple of the rock guitar diet. A great way to introduce moveable chords to your playing and greatly increase your ability to get around the neck of the guitar.

Descending Bass Lines in Chords- A great way to add interest and movement to your open position chords. Many songs use these devices to create signature sounds and memorable hooks.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Ode to Joy!

One of the most recognizable melodies in all of music, Ode to Joy is the theme of the 4th movement of Beethoven's triumphant 9th symphony. While not originally played on the guitar, it adapts well as a device to help us with the notes on the first 2 strings.
Review Notes on the 1st string
Review notes on the 2nd string

You will notice that with the melody, I have included some chords along the top of each line. These chords can be played as an accompaniment to the melody. A few of the chords I have labeled as *alternate chords, this means that these chords sound nice but are not essential. You can stay on the C chord during these chords and it will work out just fine.

This piece also introduces eighth notes in the melody. If we use the quarter note as our beat, the eighth note gets half of a beat. In foot tapping that means the notes happen when we tap AND lift our foot. At slower tempos, you should play these all as downstrokes.

Our objective is to play this in duets, small groups and as a class.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Using Embellished chords to enhance your playing

This post introduces 2 new chords and places them in a progression that highlights their sound. When we talk about embellishing something, we usually mean to add something that enhances the quality. On guitar, sometimes we can add notes by lifting fingers and letting strings ring open. That is the case with the GMaj7 and the CMaj7.

These are 7th chords that sound a bit different from chords like B7, D7, and A7. These chords use a Major 7th while those other chords have a minor 7th. That one change makes a big difference in sound. The sound is often described as having a dream-like quality. Perhaps that is why John Lennon used these types of chord in his iconic song Imagine.

Try the following chord progression using chords we know and some of these embellished chords. You should notice a bit of a different sound in these chords. It is important for all the notes to ring so you hear those embellishments.

Guitar 1: Basic Chords Identification Assessment

Please follow this link to respond to questions related to your basic chords, chord families and strumming patterns.

Basic Chords Identification Assessment

Monday, October 21, 2013

Power Chords!

Power Chords are awesome! These wonderful 2-note chords can function as Major, or minor chords and can move all over the fingerboard. Just by learning one simple form, you are now able to play dozens of chords anywhere on the guitar.

Sounds great, right? Well the sound is something you have to consider when using the power chord. Because the chord can be used as both Major and minor, the chord does not sound either Major or minor. For certain styles this is perfect because we are not interested in the quality of the chord, we just want something that has a strong sound. This is why these chords are used quite a bit in rock and metal styles.
You may notice that some of these shapes use 3 fingers, 2 fingers or 1 finger. This depends on the position of the chord (open pos. vs. moveable) or if you want to double the root note with your pinky.

When placing your power chords, you have to have a good idea of the mapping on the 5th and 6th string of the guitar. Here are the notes on those strings to help guide you when playing moveable chords.

Go Find some Power Chords!

Friday, October 18, 2013

Descending Bass Line Patterns for Cool Guitar Players

As I mentioned in class, cool guitar players can play awesome songs with chords that use descending bass lines. I have written up 2 exercises that make use of this sound. These may help trigger your own ideas about how to connect chords in new and interesting ways. Enjoy

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Chord Practice Tracks

Practicing chord progressions with a steady beat is essential to help you improve chord flow, consistency, and the ability to play with others in time. The following 3 drum tracks are tiered to begin slow and progress to a fast tempo (or speed). Along with the drum beat, you should tap your foot to help sync with the drums and your strumming hand. You can perform your primary chord progressions with downstrokes or any of the strum patterns we have studied.

Thanks to Peter N. for constructing the drum tracks!

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Notes on the 2nd string and a Duet

The notes on the 2nd string follow the same pattern as the notes on the first string. Here is an image showing the notes on the staff and their position on the neck of the guitar.

This duet uses notes on the first 3 strings. If you want to review just the notes on the first 2 strings you can stick with the top line.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Introduction to Finger style Guitar

I will be adding updates to this video with music excerpts of the examples played in the video.

Here is a collection of finger-style patterns for many musical occasions. The patterns are broken into two categories: Patterns in 4/4 time and patterns in 3/4 time. Even though music can be played in many different types of time signatures, 4/4 and 3/4 are among the most common. These patterns can be starting points for even more exploration.

Alternating Thumb and finger pluck:


Plucking Arpeggios:
An arpeggio is also known as a broken chord. Rather than strumming the notes of the chord together, an arpeggio breaks them up.