Wednesday, May 4, 2016

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).

Friday, April 29, 2016

Can You Identify the Parts Of the Guitar?

You will each receive a diagram of the acoustic guitar. Based on conversations in class, observation and general guitar knowledge, please try to identify the following guitar parts by drawing arrows from the term to the position on the guitar.
  • Neck
  • Headstock
  • Saddle
  • Pick guard
  • Fret
  • Soundhole
  • Bridge
  • Rosette
  • Capstan
  • Position Marker
  • Body
  • Nut
  • Tuners
  • Bridge Pins

Monday, April 25, 2016

Post for Prince

Prince passed away recently and I thought I would take some time to talk about his impact as a guitar player (considering this is a guitar class).
He was often overlooked for his guitar playing because of his showmanship and flashy image.
This clip form the 2004 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame ceremony celebrating George Harrison of the Beatles gives you a glimpse at his virtuosity and power as a player.

The great guitarist Eric Clapton was once asked, "What's it like to be the best guitarist in the world?" To which he is reported to have replied, "I don't know, you should go ask Prince." He was so well respected and revered by legions of guitar players. I urge you to go seek out his music (which can be difficult because his music is not streamed.)

In class we combined work on bar chords with his 80's anthem "Purple Rain." I apologize for the shoddy notation, I wanted to get this up and out as quickly as possible. Out of respect, I will probably update this post with a short tutorial video and cleaned up notation.

You can use simple downstrokes to play this song (each slash represents a downstroke). Or you can use the rock ballad strum (which we will detail in a future class).

The shapes are tricky for the beginning guitarist, but the good news is that thought there are only 3 different shapes. Watch that you are putting the chords in the proper fret!

Friday, April 1, 2016

E Minor Pentatonic Stuff

Oh Yes Indeedy! The E minor Pentatonic is just what the doctor ordered for getting your jam on! This scale and pattern is a staple for guitarists of all styles. We have begun to explore the shape in class along with the techniques of hammering-on and pulling-off to go up down the scale.

As we play through this scale, you are going to want to hear it in action. For that reason, I am including a monster rock ballad backing track that will serve nicely for our jamming purposes.

Monday, March 28, 2016

Duet Song

We are going to split the class into small "bands" for the purpose of playing a short duet song. Each member of the group must learn both the chords and the single note melody of the the song. We will perform the song at the end of class with each group member alternating between chords and melody.

If you need to review the notes...

Notes on the 1st string

Notes on the 2nd string

Quarter 3 Self-Evaluation

As we near the end of Quarter 3 it is important to reflect on your progress. Please complete and submit this Self-reflection survey with your thoughts on your progress to this date.

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Travis Picking Examples

In class we have been working through the Travis picking technique. It is a slow process to become comfortable with this common and useful guitar technique. I wanted to share some examples of songs that use this pattern. These might help you stay on course for mastering the technique.

Landslide by Fleetwood Mac

Dust in the Wind (example) by Kansas

Both examples have minimal chord movement and I have simplified some aspects of the chord progressions to make it easier to focus on the Travis Picking.

Good Luck!

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Mapping Your Own Fretboard

Please review the post on mapping the fretboard. Using the information in that post, please complete your own fretboard map highlighting the natural notes. You will find a blank fretboard in our Google Classroom. Upon completion please submit your fretboard in the assignment post in your classroom.

Period 7 Guitar I: Class Code- dy3pecf

Period 4 Guitar I: Class Code- 3r2y7hn

Feel free to work together and collaborate on the fretboard layout. While it is important to get the 

layout correct, it is more important to work through the layout as opposed to looking it up...

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Mapping the Fretboard

As guitarists, you have many ways to learn how to do nearly anything on the guitar. Many of those ways will give you short cuts (not that it's a bad thing) that certainly solve the problem of immediacy, but often those methods lack long-term understanding of the guitar.
It is easy enough to show you where to place your hand for chords, scale, etc. but as you advance, you are going to want to have the freedom to build your own chords, find new voicing, and expand your understanding of how to build and shape scales. In order to do this, it is important to have a solid working knowledge of the landscape of the guitar fretboard. While it can seem daunting ("Geez, there are a bunch of strings and a whole mess of frets...") there is a method to the madness if we take a moment and investigate...

Here is where you can find all the natural notes on the guitar. The natural notes consist of A, B, C, D, E, F and G (No #'s and b's)

First off, the distance or interval from one fret to the next is called a semitone or half step (that is the smallest interval in Western music) The distance between two frets is called a whole tone or whole step (basically 2 semitones or half steps).

Important questions to consider...

  • Do you notice any patterns on the fretboard when you look at all the natural notes?

  • What happens in those frets that don't have a letters or notes shown in the diagram?

As you work through the map of the neck, your first priority should be the E strings and the A string. These strings are the starting points for most of your chords and scales.

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Time to Teach!

Okay folks it's time to show me what you can do. Today you are going to teach something you can do on the guitar to an audience of non-guitarists. 
The result will be a short (1-2 min.) video demonstrating a chord, technique, tuning, etc. Keep in mind, your video is aimed at an audience of inexperienced guitarists so you have to be clear with your explanation and your demonstration. The video does not need to include your face, just your hands, the guitar and your voice.

Your video lesson will be posted to Google Classroom by the end of the class period.

Guitar I Period 4 Class code: 3r2y7hn

Guitar I Period 7 Class code: dy3pecf

Friday, February 26, 2016

The G7 Chord and "Borrowed" Chord Progressions

The new chord of the day is the G7 chord. Like the B7 chord, this one has some tension built into it. Unlike the B7 chord, it doesn't take 4 fingers to play even though the chord is made up of 4 different notes.

Here is a great chord progression and a couple of songs that use the G7 chord.

G         D        Em     G7       C        C         G    
[/ / / /] [/ / / /] [/ / / /] [/ / / /] [/ / / /] [/ / / /] [/ / / /]

This chord progression is used by Green Day for the verses of the song, "When September Ends".

Before them, The Beatles used this progression a little differently for the verses of the song, "In My Life". In the Beatle's case, they played each chord for just two beats instead of four.

G    D    Em  G7  C    C    G    
[/ /] [/ /] [/ /] [/ /] [/ /] [/ /] [/ /]

Listen to the two songs and and compare the sound of the chord progression. See if you can hear the similarities and/ or the differences. Both songs use a chord we have yet to learn (Cm) over the second measure of C so, while not perfect, you will get the basic "flavor" of the songs. In this case the Beatles used this chord progression "first" but it is common practice to find new ways to use the same chords over and over by other groups and composers.

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

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.

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Thoughts on beginning chords



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.

Thursday, February 4, 2016

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

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, January 28, 2016

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.

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Guitar 1: Tuning the Guitar by Ear

Electronic tuners and apps are pretty common and either inexpensive or free. I encourage you to get a hold of a tuner. They make your life so much easier when playing the guitar.
The problem with most tuners is that they train you to tune with your eyes and as musicians, we want to be able to use our ears to make decisions. It is an important skill to be able to tune your guitar by ear. Your guitar will go out of tune whether you have an electronic tuner or not. You need to be ready.

There is a common method for tuning the guitar to itself using your ear and a basic diagram of the neck of the guitar. I have included a video which demonstrates how to use this method.

image from lincolnschoolofmusic

1. Put your finger on the 5th fret of the low E string and that is an A note. Since the next string you are tuning to is an A, you would play both the notes at the same time, gently tuning the A string until its pitch matched the note you were fretting on the sixth string.
2. Once both notes were the same pitch, you would move to the next string and repeat the previous process. This time, fretting the 5th fret on the A string and playing the open note of the fourth string, D.
3. Repeat the same for the next string.
4. Be careful at this point! When fretting on the now tuned G string, you would place your finger on the 4th fret(not the 5th) to tune this string correctly.
5. The last string you would repeat the process you did for the first three strings.

Guitar1 Video Review of one finger G and C

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

Guitar 1 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.

Monday, January 25, 2016

Tell Me a Bit About Your Guitar Playing Self...

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.

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Guitar 1: End of Term Expectations

The end of the term brings us an opportunity to reflect on what we have accomplished on the guitar. We have covered a lot of ground in the past few months. This information and these concepts and techniques are always here on our guitar blog for you to use and reuse any time you would like.

I have put together a collection of posts that I feel make up some of the fundamental elements of guitar playing. While you can improve your playing by working through any of the posts in this blog, these posts in particular have important information and fundamental concepts and techniques.

The week prior to finals/midterms will be devoted to evaluating/assessing your achievement related to these these particular posts:


Single-Note Playing

Finger-Style Playing

Monday, January 4, 2016

Chord Relationships and Substitutions (Keep your options open)

We have been learning to play chords for quite some time. Many of you are really smoothing out the transition from chord to chord, exploring your favorite music or even writing your own ideas (Great!)

At some point we have to deal with the issue of what is in these chords we are playing and why do we play them when we do in music. So here is where we start the conversation and lay out some chord construction theory and the idea of substitution.

First lets look at the major building block of harmony and that is the Major scale:

The scale shown above is the C Major scale. You've heard this scale many times... Do, Re, Mi, etc.

When we build chords we create what are know as triads. Triads are 3 note chords that are based on the Major scale. We simply start stacking notes on top of each other by the interval (distance) of a third. In practical terms you place notes on the next line or space based on where your first note is located. (see example)

These stacked up thirds or triads are the fundamental harmonies of Western music. On the guitar you may notice we play more than three notes. Sometime we strum four to six strings. In those cases we are doubling notes of the triad. If a C chord has the notes C, E, and G, we might play C, E, G, C, and E (as is the case with an open position C chord.)

When we play the triads in a Major scale, these are the qualities (major, minor diminished) of the resulting chords:

When we spell the notes of the chords they look like this:
C= C, E, G
Dm= D, F, A
Em= E, G, B
F= F, A, C
G= G, B, D
Am= A, C, E
Bdim= B, D, F

When you see the notes of the chords, you can hopefully see some relationships that connect them.
For instance, a C chord has the notes C, E, G while the Am chord has the notes A, C, E. These chords have two notes in common and one that is only a step away. These chords are often substituted for each other. It is a great way to vary the sound of what you are playing and sometimes inspires new ideas and new approaches to a chord progression or a song. Here are a list of some of our basic chords and chords that can sometimes work as substitutes. Keep in mind that your ear will ultimately tell you whether the chord works or not as a substitute.

Chord                        Possible Substitutions
C                                Am, Em
F                                 Dm, Am
G                                Em, Bm
D                                F#m, Bm
E                                 G#m, C#m
A                                C#m, F#m

This relationship works inversely as well. You can substitute C for Am as easily as you can substitute Am for C. This can sometime be helpful when working on a song. Having trouble with that pesky C#m chord? Try an E chord and see if you are satisfied with the sound.

Keep strumming!