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!