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Guides: Guitar Articles & Insights

Acoustic Guitar Guide to Strum Mastery Part 7

Ghost Strumming We began to talk about ghost strumming in the last installment of this series and how we can use such a technique to improve the overall sound of our strum. Ghost strumming, as you might recall, is the process whereby you “skip” a strum in order to reduce the amount of strums..... (read more)

Acoustic Guitar Guide to Strum Mastery Part 6

As we've been discussing in the previous installments of this series, once you've mastered certain techniques you will undoubtedly want to start putting all of the pieces together so that you can use them in your playing. Of course, if you haven't quite achieved the desired level of control..... (read more)

Acoustic Guitar Guide to Strum Mastery Part 5

Of course it's important to learn new techniques and continue to build upon them as you progress through your journey into learning any instrument. But perhaps even more important is the acquisition of the ability to put all of the parts and pieces together so that you can use your new techniques..... (read more)

Stuck?

It doesn't seem to matter whether you've been playing for three months or thirty years. There are seasons when growth and creativity flourish at an unbelievable rate, and there are times when it seems as if you are just plain stuck. You can't seem to shake bad habits. You're not making any..... (read more)

Acoustic Guitar Guide to Strum Mastery Part 4

Building a strong foundation for a mighty skyscraper takes time, energy and a willingness to synthesize and combine various materials and skills together in one cohesive structure. The same can be said for the construction of a musician's abilities as well as the application of those skills..... (read more)

Action Points for Rock Singers (Part 2)

DISCLAIMER: JamPlay LLC and Chris Liepe are not legally responsible for any injuries, messes or general discomfort caused by any misuses of the information provided in this article. Please use caution and stop singing if at anytime your throat or vocal cords feel uncomfortable. Always hydrate..... (read more)

Acoustic Guitar Guide to Strum Mastery Part 3

Skill building is an important part of becoming a proficient strummer. Therefore, take a moment or two and review the first two installments of this article series so that you will be comfortable with the concepts discussed therein. Make sure and practice all of the exercises so that you will..... (read more)

Action Points for Rock Singers (Part 1)

Let's be honest. Being a 'great' Rock vocalist has absolutely no checklist to follow. If you look at current and past Rock legends, each one of them has qualities about their voices that seem to contradict 'correct' technique. They also seem to lead lifestyles in the health and fitness,..... (read more)

Introduction to the Business of Songwriting

You've built up your guitar playing chops, you've written a number of songs, performed them for a few crowds, and even made some decent recordings. You've posted videos of yourself playing your songs on YouTube and your Facebook, Band Camp, and Reverb Nation accounts all offer your music for..... (read more)

Acoustic Guitar Guide to Strum Mastery Part 1

There is no doubt that learning to play rhythm guitar is an art form in and of itself. Many musicians associate the main difficulties of playing with lead breaks and scale riffs, but there are also challenges that are intrinsic to rhythm guitar. We'll take a closer look at some of these challenges..... (read more)

Got Groove?

The first time I played in a band, I was in high school. I had been playing guitar for about a year and was jamming with some good friends that were at a similar skill level to mine with bass and drums. We wrote a number of songs, played in front of people every chance we got, and saved up..... (read more)

Maintain a Career in Music

So you want a career in music, but don’t know where to start? The first thing you need to know before you consider a career in the music industry is that if you only intend to make money from playing, then you either need to be in a very successful band or have a big hit as a writer. Generally,..... (read more)

Signal Chain : A Look at Effects Routing (Part 1)

Even if you're just starting out, you probably own or have access to some effects pedals, a guitar amp and/or a multi-effects unit. As your collection grows, so might your confusion. You may notice that your sound gets muddier instead of 'cooler.' You may buy something because you heard..... (read more)

Taking the Guitar Solo

If you are serious about playing with others at least one of the following scenarios has happened to you: It's your first time playing with the new band and the lead vocalist gives you the 'go ahead' to take the next 16 bars in front of a rather discerning crowd. You're sitting in for an artist..... (read more)

Sequencing Scales

I wanted to do an article on scale sequencing as I feel a lot of players are not sure how to go about practicing a scale. There is more to playing a scale than just trotting up and down, not only does this get boring and uninspiring, but it is also very limiting and can make our playing start..... (read more)

Last Minute Gig Preparation

Two days ago I received a phone call asking me to do a gig the following night, the problem was that I had no idea of what the songs were. Not only that but there was 3 hours worth of songs to learn! Three fifty minute sets to be exact. Under that situation as a professional musician, if..... (read more)

The 30-Minute Guitar Workout Concept

Everyone's schedule is different. We all have different demands, work days, school obligations, the list goes on. Depending on what stage of life you're in, it might be quite tricky to find meaningful, regular practice time with goals being the major focus. Even if you have hour upon hour..... (read more)

Arpeggios Gone Wild

Introduction Arpeggios are an awesome way to bring your solos to life. They will add a melodic appeal to your leads while helping you organize your musical ideas. This article will help you understand better how to use them and how to incorporate them into your musical vocabulary. Before..... (read more)

In the Style of Pete Townsend

Famed for his rebellious behaviour on stage which included the destruction of amps and obliteration of drum kits, as well as the legendary Windmill technique, Pete Townsend remains one of the most distinctive voices on the guitar in contemporary music today. In the examples covered in this..... (read more)

How to Organize and Get Gigs

One of the things that I noticed in my time as a professional musician is that there are two types of bands, rehearsal bands and gigging bands. There have been far too many projects I have been involved with where there are endless rehearsals with no effort to get any real gigs. This can..... (read more)

A Guide to Relative Tuning

There are many ways to tune a guitar, including electronic tuners, pitch pipes and tuning using a piano. So many options can be daunting in the beginning so I have laid out one of the standard methods, relative tuning. This means to be able to tune the guitar in relation to itself. At the..... (read more)

On Improvising

Often times I find myself in a position of being asked about improvisation by players interested in improving their standing in this particular area. I wanted to create this brief article to talk more about what good improvisation actually is, and give some helpful tips. To make things short,..... (read more)

Gig Like a Pro

When making the leap from bedroom guitarist to gigging guitarist, there are a number of things to take into consideration. Below is a basic outline of the skills and tools I think you need in order to be a successful gigging musician. Punctuality It is ultra important that you are not..... (read more)

Custom Modal Pentatonic Scales

Introduction Most guitar players I know started getting into lead guitar with the minor pentatonic scale. The scale has been used for decades and is one of the best tools to learn how to improvise. The simplicity of its formula and the ease of it's fingering make it an all time favorite..... (read more)

Creating Your Own Musical Style

Creating your own style can be a difficult thing to do as everything we do is inevitably influenced by the outside world or those we most listen to and admire. For example, I resemble my parents not only physically but also in many other ways such as speech and body language – this is something..... (read more)

Harmonic Minor Modes

Introduction If you’ve been playing modal for a while, you probably have heard about the harmonic minor modes. You might be confused about their use and about their names. The problem lies in the fact that those modes can have more than one name. This article will help you understand the..... (read more)

What to Work on Next?

Introduction Whether you’ve been playing guitar for years or just started last week, you might be confused as to what to work on next. Music is a living language. As such, it is difficult to know where to start. You might find yourself stuck and not know how to improve your skills as a..... (read more)

Fine Tuning the Sacred Machine Part 5 : Developing Style

“I don't know what other singers feel when they articulate lyrics, but being an 18-karat manic-depressive and having lived a life of violent emotional contradictions, I have an over acute capacity for sadness as well as elation...” Frank Sinatra As we have progressed through this series..... (read more)

Learning Songs by Ear

A Guide To Learning Songs By Ear If you've recently (within the last few years) picked up guitar, you've probably noticed the vast supply of song tabs and charts that is available to you with just a few clicks of your mouse. Searching through tabs and songs can become an all day event as..... (read more)

A Guide to Scoring Movies

Introduction One of the reasons I am so attracted to music and composition has to do with the power music can have over the listener’s emotions. Composers have a huge responsibility and hold much power as they have the capacity to make people feel happy, sad, scared and much more. It..... (read more)

Fine Tuning the Sacred Machine Part 4 - Pitch

“The tenor's voice is spoilt by affectation, And for the bass, the beast can only bellow; In fact, he had no singing education, An ignorant, noteless, timeless, tuneless fellow.” Lord Byron As we continue our discussion concerning the numerous fine skills that must necessarily come..... (read more)

Boosting Your Pentatonic Scales

Introduction If you are like 99% of guitar players, you heavily rely on the minor pentatonic scale. Perhaps you learned how to add color to your positions by adding the wonderful blue note between the 4th and 5th. If you recognize yourself in the previous description, you might feel that..... (read more)

Arpeggios on Tap

In this article I want to take a look at some interesting ways to play various arpeggios by using string skipping and a combination of right and left hand tapping. I am mainly going to focus on 7th arpeggios for now. I am sure you are all familiar with the guitarist Eddie Van Halen. He..... (read more)

Playing Over Chord Changes

In this article I wish to discuss one of the most important facets of improvising a guitar solo, that is the art of playing over chord changes. A lot of pop or rock music can sometimes just be over one tonal center (key) and therefore does not always need us to address each chord as a new..... (read more)

Nerves and Performance Anxiety

Have you ever practiced a piece until you are sure you have it down and could easily play it in your sleep, only to find yourself getting on stage and nearly everything you practiced flying directly out the window? I know I have! This phenomenon is known as performance anxiety. This is a crucial..... (read more)

Building a Career in Music

Every guitarist dreams of growing up and becoming a famous touring musician but very few can actually manage to make a living off of music, let alone acquire true wealth and fame. The dream will come to a fortunate few, but how can the rest of us make music our career and avoid shackling ourselves..... (read more)

Fine Tuning the Sacred Machine Part 3 - Vibrato

"I hate straight singing. I have to change a tune to my own way of doing it. That's all I know” Billy Holiday As we continue our protracted series of discussions on the various tenets of voice technique, and the importance of developing certain practices so that we may become the most..... (read more)

Playing with FX: Advanced Delay Techniques

Most of us own a delay pedal or two. We've listened to soaring guitar solos with dreamy, ethereal delay layers, or been mesmerized by guys like David Gilmore who take a simple idea, and carefully craft that idea around an effect to give it a whole different vibe. Then, there's the really..... (read more)

Smart Modulation

Introduction Have you ever been in a situation when the scale used to play a solo just won’t work throughout the track? If so, you probably faced what is called a modulation: the change of keys in the same musical piece. This dreaded situation can be approached several ways. This guide will..... (read more)

Pentatonic Variation

I have noticed that a lot of guitar players claim to be sick of playing the pentatonic scale as they have been playing it for years and want new scales to play. This is understandable – However, I think what guitar players especially need to realize is that there is so much more to the pentatonic..... (read more)

Fine Tuning the Sacred Machine Part 2

"Singing is speech a thousand times refined." Lamperti Each of us has a place, a niche if you will, within the overall superstructure of our society depending upon our abilities, training, intelligence, and desire amongst other things. The place that we have created for ourselves defines..... (read more)

Pro Tools: A Perfect Practice Partner

In this series so far, we have covered what it takes to get in to a variety of different recording setups utilizing Digidesign's Pro Tools. We've also looked at session setup settings and basic editing and tempo mapping. Now we're going to apply all this by starting with a simple practice..... (read more)

Fancy Words Made Easy - Theory Edition

Introduction The vocabulary used in music is quite confusing. Even the definition of some of these terms can be sometimes difficult to understand. It's as if music was reserved to a special private club that limits its members by making their language way more confusing than it should be. The..... (read more)

Critical Practicing and Listening with Backing Tracks

Perhaps part of your practice routine looks like this: You log on to JamPlay, search through the vast sea of backing tracks and find a few that catch your ear. You download them and put them in an iTunes or Windows Media playlist. Next you plug in to your amp, crank your computer speakers..... (read more)

Fine Tuning the Sacred Machine - Part 1

There are those individuals who were merrily singing Twinkle Twinkle Little Star just shortly after they were able to draw their first fiery and terrifying breath of life and continued to devour other childhood favorites as they passed the myriad carefree days of childhood, sung their hearts..... (read more)

Playing with Different Keys

Playing with Different Keys -a lesson on modulation- What is Modulation? Simply put, modulation is a change of key found in the same musical piece. Modulation brings movement to music. Although many songs are built around a single key, you will most likely come across some chord progressions..... (read more)

A Guide to Phrasing

Elements of Speech -a lesson on phrasing- About the Language Do you remember the first time you were aware of your attraction to music? What made music so special to you that you would dedicate countless hours practicing? Perhaps you wanted to be recognized for your work? Or maybe..... (read more)

Modal Chord Progressions

Most guitarists, especially in the Rock genre, spend a good amount of time on our scales. We start with the Pentatonic scales, then move to the Major and minor positions. Then, in our quest for further knowledge, we buy the 'Book of Endless Scale Possibilities' or join a cool website that..... (read more)

Your Home Studio - Beat Mapping and Drum Programming

We’re moving right along in this series of recording and project creation articles. At this point you should be on your way towards starting. We've talked about song structure and preparing a project. In this article, I’m going to be covering what I believe is the best first step on..... (read more)

Pro Tools : Creating a Session

Maybe you've tinkered around a little with Pro Tools, or maybe you're just beginning to explore digital recording. From the minute you boot up the software, there are so many options, settings and head-scratchers, that it kind of kills the mood for music making, at least in my opinion. In..... (read more)

Your Home Studio - Starting A Project

It’s now been several weeks since I started this series. We’ve covered basic recording and editing and have gone about setting up a studio environment to maximize our efforts. Now, it’s time to start looking at building a project. Over the next several articles we’re going to..... (read more)

Pentatonic Perfection

In this article we are going to look at the pentatonic scale. The pentatonic scale is made out of 5 notes (hence the pent reference in the name) and traditionally it has a major and minor form. The minor form is made up of the following intervals – R b3 4 5 b7 and the Major form is..... (read more)

Unusual Arpeggios Part 3

In previous lessons we have covered 3 note triad arpeggios and 5 note arpeggios. In this lesson I will focus on 4 note arpeggios, most accurately referred to as 7th arpeggios. With 7th arpeggios, we have a variety of types. There are major 7, minor 7 and dominant 7 to name just 3. When dealing..... (read more)

Your Home Studio - Setting Your Sound

As this series of articles expands, I’m hoping that your knowledge and especially your studio, as well. By now you should have a studio space setup, as well as an audio interface, software production suite, microphones and any necessary cables you need to make it all work! It’s all..... (read more)

Unusual Arpeggios Part 2

In the previous installment of unusual arpeggios we dealt with triad arpeggios which consisted of 3 notes. In this lesson I want to do 5 note arpeggios (4 will come later - what can I say? I am a wacky guy!). I think these are amongst the most colorful and fun of all arpeggios as they feature..... (read more)

Unusual Arpeggios

In this article I want to explore the use of sweep picking in arpeggios. In the first part of this series, I mainly want to focus on the traditional 1 note per string type arpeggio that most of us are used to - we will pick these using 1 consecutive down stroke for ascending (going up) and..... (read more)

Technique Study - Fingerpicking

"Fingerpicking" is a technique used by many different players in a wide variety of styles. There are various ways to utilize the fingers in our right hand to produce some very pleasing sounds that would not be possible with the pick alone. The most useful thing about this technique is the..... (read more)

Style Study: Rory Gallagher

Famed for using a Fender Stratocaster (the first one in Ireland), Irish guitarist Rory Gallagher has a distinctive style which incorporates Blues, Rock and even some Celtic overtones. There is more to Rory's style than just minor pentatonic scale. In the three examples we see in this article..... (read more)

Style Study: Yngwie Malmsteen

Swedish Guitar virtuoso Yngwie Malmsteen moved to the US in the early 80's and has enjoyed an illustrious career playing with bands such as Alcatrazz, and his own solo projects ever since. Yngwie is widely revered for his technical prowess which he developed as a teenager through hours of..... (read more)

Practicing and Recording: Stepping Up To Pro Tools

Introduction As you have been following along with Jason’s “Your Home Studio” article series and have started to lay down your own stuff, you’re probably starting to realize that you need to get your rig together and tackle the basics so that you can start making more music. Sure,..... (read more)

The Nashville Number System

Picture this: You're sitting in a club watching a band. You know a lot of people at this club... heck... you know most of the guys in the band. Towards the end of their set, the lead singer singles you out and asks you to come jam the last few tunes with them. You leave your comfortable..... (read more)

Your Home Studio - Microphones

Another week down and I hope you are all enjoying the information I’ve been laying out for you. We’re starting to cover more advanced techniques and thought processes. This leads to the ultimate conclusion that a three-paged weekly article can’t possibly cover all aspects of the recording..... (read more)

Style Study - John Squire

Guitarist John Squire is most famed for his excellent guitar playing in "The Stone Roses" and later, his own band "The Seahorses." Although not a technician, the main attraction in Squires playing are his innovating parts which always lend themselves perfectly to the overall sonic spectrum..... (read more)

Your Home Studio - Building Your Studio

Over the past couple weeks we’ve been taking a look at recording from a basic standpoint. For somebody that wants to do simple recordings without a lot of extras, it works. However, through the course of discovery and learning we’ve also uncovered some issues that keep us from creating..... (read more)

Style Study - Noel Gallagher

Noel Gallagher is often referred to as the brains behind the band, "Oasis." In this lesson we are going to be looking at his guitar style. Many of his solos are melodic and always complement the song, this is something we must all be aware of when soloing and something that any guitarist..... (read more)

Style Study - Adrian Smith

Adrian Frederik "H" Smith is one of the three guitarists in Iron Maiden. Smith and Dave Murray developed a trademark sound for the band by combining their lead guitars to make dual solos. Adrian broke the mold of metal guitar by fusing blues influenced licks with the addition of some modal..... (read more)

Style Study - Dave Murray

Throughout his career, Murray's guitar style has been mainly of the legato based solo variety, and, his sound and style can be distinguished from Janick Gers' and Adrian Smith's style, mostly because of his frequent use of the neck pickup. This makes for a fluid and smooth sound with lots..... (read more)

Playing Over Backing Tracks

Introduction One of the best tools I have ever used in my ongoing guitar learning experience has been backing tracks. Playing over well designed backing tracks has helped every aspect of my playing in amazing ways. In this article, I will share with you a few ideas I use to make the most of..... (read more)

Your Home Studio - Basic Audio Sculpting

Here we are, another week gone by and I hope another week of successful recordings! We ended last week talking about the beginnings of audio sculpting. We started with normalization and compression to amp the signal and accentuate some nuance in the recording. With this, we also discovered..... (read more)

Your Home Studio - Basic Editing

Well, here we are, week two of a budding recording article series. Last week I documented a few low to no cost recording solutions, including the use of Audacity. So, how’d it go? Basic audio recording techniques should be quite smooth, however as we’re all aware, sometimes technology..... (read more)

Your Home Studio - Basic Recording

It started as an itch, probably years before you even noticed it. Music, but more specifically, your desire to play it. We all listen to music in our cars, in the shower, or walking through the airport. A few of us pay more attention. It becomes a driving force in our lives. It isn’t..... (read more)

Playing Pinch Harmonics

Technique Focus - Pinch Harmonics In this lesson we are going to look at "Pinch Harmonics." First of all I want you to touch the low "E" string over the 12th fret, ensuring that your finger is over the metal fret itself, now pick the string. Notice that you get the same note (E) an octave..... (read more)

Style Study - Brian Setzer

Brian Setzer is most remembered for fronting the popular rockabilly band, Stray Cats. Although only born on April 10, 1959, his guitar playing has a real nostalgic feel to it, making use of such effects as tape echo machines, most often associated with the sounds of the late 50's and early..... (read more)

Writing Modal Chord Progressions

Introduction Playing modal seems to be a popular topic these days. But as you most likely know, modes can be very confusing first. One of the key to playing modal is to understand where and when to use a particular mode. Instead of directly answering that question, let's learn how to build..... (read more)

Style Study - Brad Paisley

There is more to country artist Brad Paisley than cowboy boots, Stetson and a southern twang. When you pay attention to his guitar playing you will notice a ferocious player! The country music style is often overlooked by budding guitarists, many country guitar players in Nashville have incredible..... (read more)

Style Study - Steve Vai

American guitar hero Steve Vai first rose to fame in the early 80's when legend Frank Zappa noticed his formidable skills on the guitar as demonstrated on a cassette tape Steve sent to him. Ever since then, Steve has enjoyed a varied career appearing with the likes of Whitesnake and David..... (read more)

A Practical Guide to Modes

Getting Started If you are reading this, you have probably heard other musicians talking about these weird scales that seem to all end in "ian" (Dorian, Phrygian, Mixolydian). You might have heard several things about them and are a bit (or completely) confused. The problem with the modal..... (read more)

Style Study - Jimi Hendrix

In this article we are going to look at the legendary Jimi Hendrix. Jimi was a true innovator and well ahead of his time. He pushed guitar playing to a new level and utilized what were seen as disadvantages and turned them into advantages, namely using the "feedback" of a guitar to great..... (read more)

Style Study - Gary Moore

Gary Moore was born Robert William Gary Moore, 4 April 1952, in Belfast, Northern Ireland. Gary is famed for his emotional and expressive style of guitar playing. Although mainly known as a blues player, Moore's playing is filled with rock influence and has a lot of great technique too. ..... (read more)

Practical Ear Training

The Importance of Hearing As a musician, it is important to develop a good ear in order play what you want. This guide should give you some good practical ways to improve your skills. Keep in mind that developing a good ear takes time and requires daily practice. It will require patience and..... (read more)

Understanding Legato Playing

Definition According to the American Heritage dictionary, to play legato is to play a piece of music "in a smooth, even style without any noticeable break between the notes." In order to play legato on our instrument, we will use our left hand to play long runs on the fret board without picking..... (read more)

Sweeping Arpeggios

The Quest for Speed Sweeping is based on a simple mathematical rule that states that the shortest way from one point to another is a straight line. If we apply that to the guitar, the shortest way to go from one string to the other is straight. Sweeping is basically eliminating all the unnecessary..... (read more)

Guide to Proper Picking

Alternate Picking Many guitar players rely on picking each note that they play to blaze through the fretboard. The most important thing to keep in mind while practicing the following techniques is to be as precise as possible. Many guitar players can pick fast, but picking with precision demands..... (read more)

ii V I Mayhem

The term ii V I is heard a lot, particularly in the Jazz idiom. However, the ii V I is seen in all types of music but may not be used as explicitly. In this article I want to really explore various ways of improvising through this chord progression. There are different approaches to improvising,..... (read more)

Linking Scales with Chords

Chords and the guitar often give people headaches both in terms of memorization and in terms of physical difficulty. In this lesson I want to look at how you can go about creating a whole host of chords quickly and effectively. Chord playing is something that most good jazz pianists really..... (read more)

Guide to Effective Guitar Practicing

Have a Plan I find it very easy to just spend time playing what I already know and enjoy my time with the instrument. That's a good thing to do, but not very effective when it comes to practice. Practicing should be a time when you develop your strengths, learn new things and eventually become..... (read more)

Play It Like You Feel It

I spent much of my time as an aspiring blues musician in the late 1950s through the early 1970s listening to blues records, going out to see live performances, and seeking out older blues musicians for advice and lessons whenever the opportunity afforded itself. I was blessed to be able to..... (read more)

Choosing a Guitar: Acoustic vs Electric

There are a few things to take into consideration when choosing to play an acoustic or electric guitar. Ultimately, the deciding factor should be which type of instrument you enjoy playing the most. If you buy an electric guitar because you want to have a nice painted finish to show off but..... (read more)