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!