Friday, September 17, 2010

Lesson 4: The C Major/A minor Scales

I decided that Lesson 4 would come early, as it is an easy concept. Scales are essentially patterns of pitch, or steps on the melodic ladder.  Another way to say it is "what music is made of", but that could be argued.

Anyway, the A minor scale is:


The C Major scale is the same thing as the A minor scale, and vice versa. They are relative to each other in the sense that:

- A minor is the relative minor to C Major.
- C Major is the relative major to A minor.

If you start at C on your guitar and go back 3 frets to A, and if you start at A and go 3 frets forward you land on C.

That is true if you go backwards on any note 3 frets. They will be relative of each other.

Practice this scale everywhere on the neck. A good thing to do will be to find out the notes, and locate all of them on the neck. It will do you good. :D


Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Lesson 3: More Technique!

Assuming that you've worked on your hammer-ons and pull-offs with your pinky, (which is by far the weakest digit) you can now get a better understanding of how all of the fingers on your left hand are parts of an equation.

Anatomically, you've four fingers and one thumb to work with on your fretting hand.  Your thumb is a sparse tool (variable), unless you play chords often, so we'll concentrate on the fingers for now.

While many guitarists argue over fundamentals and principles, I believe that a good technique is the first step.  With incredible dexterity comes quicker understanding and faster results.

Thinking of music like any other thing you have to learn is essential. You weren't able to walk the first time you tried, and everyone knows that learning how to read is a process.  Treating your guitar the same will help you greatly.  Don't jump ahead to something you can't handle off the bat.

Exercise 1:

 e e e e e e e e   e e e e e e e e 
 d u d u d u d u   d u d u d u d u 


Exercise one is also going to be tricky, but remember to stick to the principles.  When practicing, there are 3 principles to follow:

1. Practice slowly when learning something new, and practice with a metronome. This CANNOT be stressed enough.

2. Make sure your picking is consistent with what is instructed. Pick it as I've shown.  Once you've reached a good speed (160 bpm), reverse the picking pattern and start with an upstroke.

3. Believe in yourself.  Set goals.  Don't get angry at your guitar, your fingers, your brain or anything else for that matter.  You will build speed, accuracy and dominance if you follow these lessons.

Remember these principles and live by them!

Exercise 2: 

 e e e e e e e e   w
 1 3 2 1 3 1 2 1   4
 d u d u d u d u   d


Exercise 2 is borrowed from John Petrucci's "Rock Discipline".  It is very effective for developing string skipping, as well as alternate picking.  Notice how after you pick (downstroke) your first note, your pick is already traveling downward toward the bottom of your guitar.  An important thing to notice here is that the next note is an upstroke. Your pick is already traveling down to that A (note, 7th fret, 3rd string) and if you deliver an upstroke, your pick would travel upward toward the third note (E, 7th fret, 2nd string).

Also, note that you should keep your shoulder locked when picking, and your elbow should have LITTLE movement.  Your wrist should be the main piece to the puzzle for speed. Your elbow is to guide your wrist to different strings.

If you don't find this easy yet, work on it.  Under no circumstance should you substitute an upstroke for a downstroke on this exercise.

This practice of alternate picking only uses the movement needed to play the note.  Excess movement will only slow you down, and limit your success on the guitar.

The last thing I want to discuss is simply that not only does technique involve contact with the instrument, but also the space and time between contact, whether it be the strings with your pick or fingers.  Keep as close to the strings with your fingers and pick as you can while playing.  A lot of guitarists don't realize that the time you spend off of the fretboard, is more important than the time you spend on it.  For example, when someone is trying to quickly take something off of a surface, or quickly clap their hands, you realize that their hand is close to the object they're intending to touch, in order to achieve a quicker speed.

Thanks to those who keep reading.  I promise, things will get more informative.. and I will let everyone know about special practice techniques that are quite unorthodox.

As always: Principles, practice and domination.


Thursday, September 9, 2010

Lesson 2: Technique

So by now I can imagine that your practice of the first lesson has made you aware of your strengths and/or weaknesses. 

If you can't identify those, make sure that you practice with a metronome and pay attention to:

A. Your picking hand. (How close is your pick to the strings? Am I consistently changing from a downstroke to an upstroke? Am I staying in time?)

B. Your fretting hand. (How much effort goes into each note you play?  Which fingers feel natural to use and which don't?)

Exercise 1:
 s s s s s s s s s s s s s s s s   s s s s s s s s s s s s s s e
 d       d       d                 d       d       d   u   d

*Use your first finger on the second fret and your fingers should all be one fret apart.


This exercise can be the early on key in guitar that you may need for a break through.  What you may notice is that between your first finger and your pinky, there is a very strong feeling of tension and misunderstanding between the two of them.  Set your metronome to a slower speed and use the hammer-on/pull-off technique to play the exercise.  As always, focus on completing the riff in time with the metronome with every stroke of your pick hitting the string loudly.

Now if your pinky is struggling, do not despair.  Work on these hammer-on exercises and to get familiar to a deeper extent; purchase a hand exerciser with little tension and work your way up to higher tension.

Exercise 2:
 s s s s s s s s s s s s s s s s   s s s s s s s s s s s s s s e
*2 4 2 4 2 4 2 4 3 4 3 4 3 4 3 4   2 4 2 4 3 4 3 4 2 4 2 4 3 4 2
 d       d       d       d         d       d       d       d

*Finger pattern for the exercise.


What should be hardest as a beginner is the hammer-on and pull-offs between the third and fourth finger and most of the time, this remains true for more experienced guitarists.  No amount of practice of one technique is "enough", as these exercises should be built upon once there is a better understanding of the guitar.

Practice the most difficult parts diligently by making up your own hammer-ons and pull-offs to use.  Try to implement stretching into the hammer-ons to create power over distance.

Exercise 3:
 s s s s s s s s s s s s s s s s   s s s s s s s s s s s s s s e
 3 4 3 4 3 4 3 4 3 4 3 4 etc.
 d       d       d       d         d       d       d       d


Exercise 3 is a tough one.  Focus on keeping the hammer-ons equal between each fretting.  The real trick is the time between the notes, not the notes themselves.  Try variations of this last exercise, as well as stretching for power over distance.  If it hurts, remember to stop!  Don't hurt yourself and come back to it later.

That's it for now.  Practice, practice, practice!


Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Lesson 1: Technique

Now if you're the already the aspiring guitarist and know some of the things I am going to explain in this lesson, take a minute to keep an open mind about my practice and teaching methods.  While learning songs is fun and in the short run beneficial, having good foundations and principals before even looking at tabs is important in this method.

The very first and arguably the most important practice advice is to warm up before any type of playing.  This is true in gigs, practice, showing off to friends, etc. Warming up increases flexibility and efficiency in your fingers and hand technique as well as dexterity.  A cold muscle is basically useless for this activity.

Start first with your arms.  Stretch them across your chest for 15 seconds each, making sure not to give yourself a painful stretch.  Repeat for 15 seconds now over your head and stretch your arms down your back, pressing your hand into your elbow to stretch to your fullest potential, making sure not to hurt yourself.

Next, is your hands.  Put your hands out in front of you, palms facing down and grab your fingers and pull them up so your hand is now a right angle with your arm.  Do this for 15 seconds with each hand.  Next, turn your hand over and make a loose fist.  Pull each of your hands toward your forearm again, careful of any pain you may experience.

Now that you've got your limbs getting blood to them, you want to continue the stretching by doing slow spins on your neck (to care for later headbanging) and twist your back to work out the kinks.  Remember, if it is painful, don't do it!

Now for technique.  I will first explain the fundamentals of your picking hand, and only for the progression of speed.  This is a strange method, of course, but bear with me.

For maximum speed, your picking hand should be close to this.

Thanks to GuitarNoize

Just as a mental note, my middle finger is not used as shown in the picture, unless there is a serious need for speed!  Personally, I hold the pick between the thumb and pointer finger, aiming my pick at a slight angle toward the string.  "Nudging" the string like this is more effective, rather than trying to pluck the string up and down with the pick perpendicular to the string.

Assuming you're sitting down and practicing, you should be okay.  Your body and brain will automatically move the guitar into a comfortable position for you to play in.  If you're standing, having your guitar high on your torso will give you greater control of both hands, including the tedious "sweep picking".

Also, another thing to note with the tablature, is to read it upside down with the top string on the tabs, representing the high e string on your guitar (the highest pitched string).  So on, so forth.  The letters above the tab indicate note value.

w: whole note
h: half note
q: quarter note
e: eighth note
s: sixteenth note
t: thirty-second note.

Note: These will be the only values in the first few exercises.  And exercises will remain in common time (4/4).

So first, let's start off with exercises to start your hand in the right direction right away.  The following exercises are for your right hand only, so your left hand is safe for now.

Exercise 1:
 e e e e e e e e   e e e e e e e e   e e e e e e e e
-----------------|-----------------|-----------------| Etc.
 d u d u d u d u   d u d u d u d u   d u d u d u d u

The "d" and "u"  under the tab indicate which type of pickstroke to use.  The "d" represents downstroke and the "u" represents upstrokes.  It is important to watch your picking hand and monitor that you are following the exact map here of ups and downs.  It will be detrimental to your picking development.

*This tip may be the most important, underrated, and hated concept of all guitarists, but take it from a guy who waited a long time to swallow his pride.  You want to ALWAYS practice with some sort of rhythmic device such as a metronome.  Teachers around the world cannot stress this enough, as it teaches rhythm and makes identifying mistakes that much easier.  Start slow and work your way up to speed.  With these techniques, building speed and precision will come much faster than without these methods.  Be patient!

When you do the first exercise, use a metronome and make sure each note is picked where it should be picked, in the rhythm of "one and two and three and four and".  The first open will fall on "one" and the second open will fall on "and", and so forth.  Continue these across all strings.

After you've built a good alternate picking base, we should work on the left hand (or right, if you're left handed!)

Exercise 2:
 e e e e e e e e   e e e e e e e e
-----------------|-----------------| Etc.
 d u d u d u d u   d u d u d u d u 


Exercise 3:
 e e e e e e e e   e e e e e e e e 
-4-3-2-1---------|-----------------| Etc.
 d u d u d u d u   d u d u d u d u


*Note: Exercises 2 and 3 can be modified in any order, 1234, 1324, 1423, etc.  This should be practiced, as full dexterity will come from equal strength between all fingers.  Make sure you practice slow at first, speed will come in short time.  Note your picking hand, and make sure it is making correct picking strokes.  If it is not, slow down your metronome and start again.  Accuracy is important!

This last exercise should be practiced when you've got the first three down well and up to a decent speed (120 bpm, give or take).  It impliments groupings of two notes per string, and can be difficult at first.  Remember to play it slow and work it up to speed!

Exercise 4: 
 e e e e e e e e   e e e e e e e e
-1-2-------------|-----------------| Etc.
 d u d u d u d u   d u d u d u d u


Lastly in this lesson, these exercises, once worked up to a decent speed should then be played all across the neck. Start at the one, and continue until the exercise is completed, and just move your fingers up a fret to the second.  Try to make it all the way to the 13th fret, because the 13th fret is an octave of the 1st fret!

Extra Credit: Learning the notes on the neck of the guitar is helpful in the long run.  Improvised guitarists realize early on that it is a lifeline in soloing.  Not knowing your notes can confuse you during playing and make you choke.  Start learning those notes!


Monday, August 30, 2010


This is just an introduction.  I'm Mike and I have played guitar for nearly nine years.  I believe I have a unique approach to teaching guitar and music in general.

I will take the time to post lessons and other helpful hints from here on.