Thursday, December 17, 2015

Adding Pedal Tones to Familiar Chords

How do some of our favorite groups get those distinctive sounds on seemingly familiar chords? One little trick involves creating pedal tones within a chord. A pedal tone is a sustained note that carries through changes in harmonies or chords. We usually think of a pedal tone as being in the lower or bass part of a chord or harmony, but there is nothing to prevent us from creating pedal notes in the higher notes of a chord.

Here are examples of pedal notes transforming otherwise familiar chords:


Chords like these are used quite a bit in rock music to change the sound and make it a bit more memorable.

Here are links to a few songs that make good use of these "pedal-type" chords.

Every Rose Has it's Thorn- Poison
Wonderwall- Oasis
You and Me- Lifehouse

Try them for yourself and come up with your own ideas!

Thursday, December 3, 2015

Collaborative Guitar Project

Okay folks, your group has been asked to perform a cover song for a "Save the Penguins" benefit album. A list of songs is posted on our website. (30 basic songs in the links section)
Your group has to choose a song and work out the chords and strumming. Each person in your group must participate in the performance. Not everyone has to play each chord or play them all the same way (not everyone needs the same strumming for example). 
The goal is to perform the song in class where it will be recorded for this fictitious benefit album.

This will happen over 3 consecutive class meetings.

  • Meeting 1 - establish the group, pick song and work on chords and style.
  • Meeting 2 - practice the song and make adjustments to the performance.
  • Meeting 3 - perform the song live and record the results

Thank you (and the Penguins thank you)

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Beginning Picking Exercise (downstrokes)

We are focusing in on improving our picking. Here is a (relatively) fun picking exercise (from that can help improve the accuracy of your picking as you move across the strings. Here are some tips for playing this exercise:

  • You can rest the side of your hand close to the bridge of the guitar or use your fingertips to guide your hand
  • Play slowly and evenly with the pick hand
  • Try not to look at your pick hand while playing
  • Use any finger to fret the note on the first string

Monday, November 16, 2015

Mapping the Guitar Neck

There are notes all over the neck of the guitar. Unlike the piano, the notes are not laid out in an (reasonably easy to manage) orderly fashion.

Here is where you can find all the notes on the neck of the guitar from open position to the 12th fret.

So how can this information be helpful to us guitarists? With a little understanding of chord construction, you can find new ways to play the same chords you already know. 

Try it out...
Here are the notes in some of our familiar chords. Try finding new places to play them on the neck of the guitar. See if you can come up with at least two new ways to play the following chords:

G = G, B, D
C = C, E, G
D = D, F#, A
Em = E, G, B
Am = A, C, E

The notes can be in any order you want on any combination of strings. Neck mapping is sort of a word search but with musical results.

Friday, November 13, 2015

Seasonal 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.

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Rock Ballad Strum

When a song has a slower tempo, more activity in your strumming pattern can give it lift and energy. The Rock Ballad Strum is a great strumming pattern for generating the requisite energy to turn a slower ballad into a rock classic. The attached example features 2 songs that can be enhanced by using the Rock Ballad Strum. Hey Jude by the Beatles and Drops of Jupiter by Train

Here is an example of the pattern. down-down-down-down,up,down,up,down-down-down

Guitar Riffs: Exploring the People who play the Guitar

Monday, October 26, 2015

Notes on the Second String

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. The top line of the duet uses notes from the first two strings.

Thursday, October 22, 2015

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

Please complete by Tuesday October 27th. Thank You!

Monday, October 19, 2015

The Blues Shuffle

Here is a post on the Blues shuffle. It is one of the most classic riffs in all of guitardom and I wanted to commit it to the blog. This "shuffle" is the early sound of rock guitar. This is the model in which blues guitarists still make their music and with which rock guitarists build their style. (image 1)

The A minor pentatonic scale is one of the most common scale patterns used by guitarists to build solos and write classic riffs for songs. (image 2)

To finish off your blues you might want to use this classic lick that has been passed down through the decades... (image 3)

The blues shuffle pattern at the top of the post (image 1) is the backbone. That is your foundation. On top of that you can play a solo using the pentatonic scale (image 2) and incorporate your classic blues lick (image 3).

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

You Too Can Write Your Own Song!

Beginning Guitar
You Too Can Write Your Own Song!

At this point you should all have the basic skill sets for writing your own music.
  • Basic Chord Vocabulary
  • A variety of strumming, picking and finger-style patterns (we are getting there...)
  • A guitar

With those skills and the guitar (which isn’t so much a skill as more a medium through which your musical ideas can find an expressive outlet) You Too Can Write Your Own Song!

To make this process easier for you, I have outlined the basic chords in a chord matrix to help you get started. Play around with these chords. Put them in different order. Try different strumming and plucking patterns, different tempo (speed), etc.

Chord Family Matrix (The grayed out chords are ones we have not reviewed in class, but feel free to explore them as well.)
Often we play these chords in a line across this matrix (G-C-D7-G), staying within the same family. But many times when we experiment with chords outside a family we can get interesting results.
Ex. D-B7-Em-F-G These chords are from different families, but it may be a sound you like or can work with.

 Remember a D chord can be spiced up by using a sus2 or a sus4

Write down your ideas so you remember your original chord progressions and any other notes that can help you remember your ideas.

Share Them Here

The key ingredient is experimentation. Some musicians spend hours going back and forth over chords using trial and error to come up with a sound they like. You will be surprised with what you can come up with when you experiment a little bit.

Classic Chord Progressions (These ones have already been used a lot!)
G-Em-C-D7-G-Em-C-D7, etc. (Many songs of the 50’s and 60’s)

G-C7-G-G-C7-C7-G-G-D7-C7-G-G (The blues. Played everyday since 1890 or so.)

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Composing for the Guitar

Today we will play with a new music notation program.
You will compose using Noteflight an online/cloud-based notation program. Noteflight allows you to compose on a desktop and/or tablet. It allows you to collaborate on composition much as you would a shared document. During class, we will learn how to work with Noteflight. The object is to start building familiarity with the program.
Here is an assignment which will allow you to experiment with composition

Monday, October 5, 2015

Notes on First String: Duet

Playing duets is an excellent way to quickly improve your note reading ability. For this example, you are going to work out the notes and rhythm of Part I (the top line). We will play the duet as a class. I will play Part II.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Chord Families: It's Primary Season

We can play quite a few primary chords within a number of chord families. Remember the primary chords are the I-IV-V of any given key. We can play chord families in Major and minor keys. Here is a rundown of what we can do...

Guitar 1:

Key of G

Key of A

Key of D

Key of E

Key of Em

Key of Am

Guitar 2: All of above and...

Key of C

Key of F

Key of Bb

Key of Eb

Key of Ab

Key of Db

Key of Cb

Key of B

Key of F#

Key of C#

These examples are all listed in Major tonality. Guitar 2 students should play all of these chord families in both major and minor. In minor, the 1st and 4th chords would use a minor shape.

Monday, September 21, 2015

The Theory Behind Chord Families

I have spoken in class about how certain chords belong together because they are in the same family. Well, by family I am talking about the key in which these chords reside.
 Let's look at three chords: G, C, and D

These three chords get played together a lot. We call these chords the I (G), IV (C) and V (D) in the key of G.

When you look at the Key of G and how the scale in that key is constructed, you will see the pattern of chords that live within the key of G. This pattern is the same in every Major scale (Do, Re, Mi...etc.)

Notice how the I, IV and V are upper case or Major chords. We call those the Primary Chords in the key. Hundreds and hundreds of songs have been written based on these primary chords alone. At this point, you already know the primary chords and a couple of secondary chords (Am, Em) in the key of G so you are well on your way to playing, and creating some great music.

Monday, September 14, 2015

The Notes on the First String

This video reviews the three notes on the first string: E, F, and G

The B7 Chord and Hallelujah

In class we discussed the B7 chord. We looked at the open position fingering of the chord and mentioned it's relationship to E chords (specifically Em).

Well here is that chord in blog format...
Here are the chord changes to the very popular song "Hallelujah" by Leonard Cohen.
The B7 chord (in this key) only makes one appearance in the form of the song, but the impact is striking. It is easily the most memorable chord in the song. The fact is the B7 chord doesn't actually belong in the the key of the song (G). It is borrowed form another key and that is why it is such a special sound.

G                                 Em
I've heard there was a secret chord
        G                              Em
That David played, and it pleased the Lord
       C                        D                    G         D
But you don't really care for music, do you?    
It goes like this
        C              D
The fourth, the fifth
        Em                 C
The minor fall, the major lift
       D                         B7               Em
The baffled king composing Hallelujah
         C               G
Hallelujah, Hallelujah

         C               G    D    G
Hallelujah, Halleluuuuuujah

Lather, Rinse, Repeat...

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Reflecting on the Music- Guitarist Forum

Take a listen to some examples of the guitar in action. What do you think about some of these ways the guitar is used to make music?

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

The Syncopated Strum

Strum patterns are simply variations and combinations on the downstroke (D) and the upstroke (U). One of the most commonly used and useful strum patterns is one we like to call the syncopated strum. Syncopation is when notes or rhythms happen in unexpected places off of the beat. When music is not syncopated, the notes and rhythms generally happen in predictable patterns on the beat.

Here is the basic strum pattern:
If we syncopate that it looks like this:
The notes in the middle are tied together. When notes are tied, we add the notes together and sustain the sound.

If we were to count this syncopated rhythm, it would look like this:

This handy strum will serve you well throughout your guitar career.

Friday, September 4, 2015

First 5-chord review and recap- Beatles and Green Day

The first 5 chords are G, C, G7, Em, and D. This video will illustrate those chords and the progression used in the songs, In My Life by the Beatles and When September Ends by Green Day.

The Progression played in the video...

G       D       Em     G7     C       C       G       G
| / / / / | / / / / | / / / / | / / / / | / / / / | / / / / | / / / / | / / / / |

With each chord, please listen and observe these characteristics:

  • Clarity- with practice, each note within the chord should ring clearly. If the notes buzz or sound muffled it might be because:
    • your thumb is not positioned correctly behind the neck
    • Your callouses are still developing on your fingertips
    • Your fingers are lying flat and not arching over the strings
  • Motion- Once you are happy with the sound of the chords the next challenge is to move smoothly from one to the other
    • try to be economical with your hand movement- find the shortest path and move directly without wasted hand or finger movement
    • move slowly with your strumming patterns. Only move as fast as your weakest chord change. This will help develop consistency between chords.
  • Strumming- The most advanced strums are basically combinations of up and down strokes. When we have trouble with strums it generally is a result of the following:
    • keep your wrist relaxed so there is a natural flow on the up and down strokes.
    • Try to sync your hand motion with the rise and fall of your tapping foot. This will help you play more consistently in time.
    • Say the strumming pattern in your head as you play until it becomes second nature. (syncopated = "down  down-up  up-down-up"), etc.

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

A Bit of Information Gathering...

I am looking to get a better view of what you hope to get from our time together. This survey will help me to guide you toward your goals.

Monday, August 31, 2015

Guitar 1 - Day 1

Here is a quick overview of the first two basic chords. One finger G and one finger C.

Guitar Starter Tips

I wanted to share some thoughts about starting on the guitar. Having played most of my life, I have made plenty of mistakes and fail on a daily basis. Hopefully this advice will be of some benefit.
  • Be patient
    • Progress often comes slowly. If you want instant gratification, you may be disappointed. Make small goals for yourself and chart your progress toward those goals. 
  • Regular, consistent practice
    • Seems like a no-brainer, right? Regular and consistent doesn't necessarily mean endless hours of practice. 15 minutes of targeted practice on a routine basis will yield results you can measure and be proud of.
  • When your hands get sore or fingers get tired, take a break.
    • You are building muscles and callouses in places you have never built muscles and callouses before. Sore hands mean your muscles are growing. Give them a chance to build and strengthen.
  • Listen
    • You learn so much from absorbing the sounds around you. We have never lived in a time when resources are so readily available. Take advantage of these opportunities.

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Guitar I: End of Term

As we head toward the end of the school year. I wanted to collect some of the posts in one easy to find location. The skills and content in these posts are the basic skills and understanding for beginner guitarists. I will be listening to each of you to measure your progress toward attaining these benchmarks.

Open Position Chords
All of these chords should be memorized. You should be able to move between them at a moderate tempo both strumming and with finger style patterns.

Strumming Patterns
These are the basic strumming patterns we used throughout the class.

Single Note Reading
You should be able to play this melody, at a moderate tempo, with notes on the first two strings of the guitar.

Finger style patterns
You should be able to apply these finger style patterns to any chord progression using the open position chords (first link).
Sample chord progressions:

Previous Concepts and Review Post
Additional techniques, scales and concepts are connected to this link.

Keep strummin' !

Guitar 1: Self-Reflection

Monday, June 1, 2015

E Minor Pentatonic Scale

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.


E minor Blues
The Pentatonic Scale was seemingly made to be played over the blues. Here are a few choruses of the blues in E minor with which to try out the scale.

Friday, May 29, 2015

Compose Guitar Melody on the first 3 strings

Please use Noteflight to compose an 8-measure melody using notes on the first 3-strings of the guitar.


Your melody should have examples of Whole, Half, quarter and eighth notes.

Thank You

Friday, May 22, 2015

Pedal Tones on the Guitar

Using pedal tones (or notes) can transform the the sound of an otherwise everyday chord progression.
What is a pedal tone you may ask?

Here is a definition from the internet:
ped·al note
noun: pedal tone
  1. 1.
    a note sustained in one part (usually the bass) through successive harmonies, some of which are independent of it.

This is the way we will play around with pedal tones.

These are the chord shapes Randy Rhodes use at the beginning of "Crazy Train"
As you can see, the A note on the 5th string is ringing over each chord. That is the pedal tone.

We can do this with other open strings to get the pedal effect.

If we want to use the open D (4th) string for the same purpose, we might try these shapes:

We can do this with the Pedal E (6th) string as well:


Play around with these chords and see if you can come up with your own "Pedal Chords."

Monday, May 18, 2015

Playing with double stops in CMajor

Last week we started to explore the sound of double stops (2 note chords). Try to make some sounds with double stops over a simple C Major chord progression.

Here is the C Major Scale in double stops:

Here is a backing track to play with:

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Let's Invert some Chords

A large part of our guitar life will be spent playing chords in what is known as root position. Root position is when the lowest note of the chord you are playing is the note that names the chord. When you strum away on a big ol' E chord, it is the low 'E' string that rings at the bottom of the guitar.

Occasionally you will want to play a song or chord progression in which the lowest note of the chord is not the root but some other note of the chord. When this happens you are inverting the chord.

Perhaps you've seen these types of chords when you are looking for songs to play.

F/C or G/B or E/G# or C/E

Guitarists sometimes call these slash chords (read "F slash C").

What these symbols do indicate is that you should play the chord before the slash and then use the note after the slash as the lowest note of the chord. In some cases you may be playing with a bass player who will "take care of" the bass note leaving you to play the chord and not worry about the inversion.


To do do this properly you are going to have to learn some new shapes...

For instance an E chord can become an E/G# chord through inversion.

An A chord can become an A/C#

A D chord can become a D/F#

Try these sounds and we will add more to this post as we learn more shapes.