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.