Friday, February 27, 2015

Guitar I: Notes on the First String 2/2

This post is dedicated to the notes on the first string. The first string is the "E" string and when the first string is played "open" it is the note "E".
"F" and "G" are played on the 1st and 3rd fret respectively. Playing through these exercises will prepare you for our first duet.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Guitar II: Minor Swing

Django Reinhardt was a major force in popularizing the guitar in the 30's and 40's. He was a virtuoso who got around the guitar neck by only using 2 fingers (his hand was injured in a fire).
I would like to introduce you to one of his trademark songs "Minor Swing".
Here is a youtube clip of the original recording...

The main melody of the song uses the primary chords in Aminor. The solo section also uses those primary chords, but in a slightly different progression.

Am / / /  |Am / / / |Dm / / / |Dm / / / |
E7 / / /  |E7 / / / | Am / / / |Am / / / |
Dm / / / |Dm / / / |Am / / / |Am / / / |
E7 / / / |E7 / / / |Am / / / |Am / / / |

A gypsy guitarist named Stefane Wrembel has created some nice backing tracks to a slew (that is the correct term when talking about Gypsy Jazz) of Gypsy Jazz standards.

While listening to the backing track, I would encourage you to try soloing using the A minor scale. This scale expands upon the pentatonic scale, giving you more note choices.

Here is the final chorus of the song Minor Swing. The theme is similar to the opening melody but follows the chord changes of the solo. It also has a great little chromatic lick to end the song.


Guitar II: The Pentatonic Scale Across the Neck

The pentatonic scale is a guitarists dream. Ample material for creative soloing and riff making, but without the hassle of "wrong" notes. We tend, however, to get locked into one "box" position when playing the pentatonic scale. In our efforts to become "neck-mappers" it is important to start breaking out of the boxes and seeing what else is on our guitar neck. To that end, I have borrowed this helpful diagram which illustrates the 5 positions of the pentatonic scale. The chart calls these shapes "minor" pentatonic but I am going to just refer to them as pentatonic scales. Pos. 1 is the classic "box" shape I was referring to. Each shape connects and flows into each successive shape.

 If we apply the same understanding of the 6th string that we have for moveable bar chords we can play any number of different minor pentatonic scales. If you start position 1 on the 3rd fret, you are now playing the Gminor pentatonic. Start at the 6th fret and you are playing the Bbminor pentatonic, etc.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Guitar II: Moveable Bar Chords on the 6th String

Bar chords are often torturous for beginning guitarists, but they unlock the neck of the guitar like no other chords can do.
With the 3 chord shapes in this post and knowledge of the 6th string (to the 12th fret), you now have 36 chords at your disposal (theoretically more if you count enharmonic equivalents as different chords-but let's not worry about that too much).

First, let's look at the 3 shapes in question:




These shapes are based around the open position A chord. If you take away the first finger bar, you probably can see the the A, Am and A7 shape.

These chords change letter name based on where you place that first finger bar. When you know the notes on the 5th string, you really have some options.

These are the first steps in mapping the neck of the guitar. Happy chord hunting!

Friday, February 6, 2015

Guitar I: First 5 Chords

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, February 4, 2015

Guitar 1- Day 1

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