Chapter 1: (00:33) Introduction Music
Welcome to the Phase 1 Basic Electric Guitar Series with Dave "DMAC" MacKenzie! Dave kicks off this lesson series with a demonstration of his ripping guitar style.
Chapter 2: (00:24) Introduction to Lesson
Dave MacKenzie Bio
Dave MacKenzie has been playing guitar for 30 of his 45 years on this earth. Starting back when he was 14 years old, Dave picked up the guitar and started to learn from his oldest brother, who had played some guitar as well. Dave was hooked, and couldn't learn fast enough! Everything from the Beatles, Chicago, Ted Nugent, The Eagles, you name it, Dave was trying to play it.
Then as with a lot of players out there, Eddie Van Halen came along and changed the way guitar was played! Dave has been influenced by anyone he has heard play guitar, literally! Always keeping an open mind and a humbleness about him has helped him to keep learning new things on, and about the guitar.
Dave has mostly played in top 40 rock, country, and pop bands. He is most recently playing guitar and keyboards in a 80's metal band called Open Fire. They have opened for Warrant, Firehouse, Winger, and LA Guns within the 3 and a half years they have been together, and are now jumping into original music.
Dave believes you should have internal motivation, and passion to play guitar, and most definitely, it should be fun!
As with his playing, Dave will find new ways to show you how to get the most out of your time learning guitar!
Dave MacKenzie Links
Ragged Doll MySpace Page
Dave begins this series with the assumption that you are brand new to the guitar. He begins with basic concepts such as proper right and left hand techniques. As the series progresses, Dave introduces techniques specific to rock guitar playing. A brief overview of lesson materials is listed below.
-Basic open chords (major and minor), barre chords, power chords, and basic chord progressions.
-Discussion of rhythm, rhythm exercises.
-Explanation of single notes, chords, arpeggios, and how they function in music.
-Basic right and left hand techniques.
-Speed and coordination exercises.
-Chord change exercises.
-Scales such as the major scale, natural minor scale, and pentatonic scales.
-Awareness of note locations and scales on the fretboard.
-Basic lead guitar concepts such as bending, hammer-ons, pull-offs, string bends, trills, vibrato, and tapping.
-Lead guitar licks.
-Creative rock rhythm techniques.
This series is taught on electric guitar. However, almost all of the concepts and techniques that Dave demonstrates can be transferred to acoustic guitar.
Chapter 3: (08:50) The Guitar and Its Parts
Anatomy of the Guitar
The headstock is located at the end of a long, slender piece of wood called the neck. Tuning pegs are fastened to the headstock. The strings are wrapped around the tuning pegs to hold them tightly in place.
B. Tuning Machines
The tuning machines ensure that the tuning remains stable for as long as possible. Most electric guitars feature six tuning machines on one side of the headstock. Turning the tuning machines alters the pitch or tuning of each string. Turning the tuning peg in a counterclockwise motion raises or sharpens the pitch of the string. Turning the peg clockwise lowers or flattens the pitch.
Most acoustic guitars feature three tuning machines on each side of the headstock. In this case, the three tuning machines on the bottom portion of the headstock work in the opposite direction.
On their way to the tuning pegs, the strings pass through an object made of bone or plastic called the nut. The nut is mounted where the neck meets the headstock. However, on classical guitars, the nut is not fastened to the guitar. Rather, it is held in place by the tension supplied by the strings. The nut keeps a precise, even spacing between all six strings. It also keeps the strings at a fixed height above the fretboard.
D. The Neck
The long slender part of the guitar is called the neck. The fretboard is glued on top of the neck. Fretboards are either made out of rosewood, maple, or ebony. Maple produces a brighter tone. Rosewood and ebony sound slightly darker.
Slits are carved into the fretboard for installation of metal strips of wire. These strips of wire are called frets. The majority of acoustic guitars feature 20 frets. Electric guitars typically have 21 or 22 frets. Many guitars designed for hard rock and metal feature 24 frets. Ibanez has recently started to manufacture a guitar that features 27 frets.
2. Fret Size
Frets are typically offered in four different sizes. They are listed from smallest to largest below:
Fret size is determined by the width and height of the fret. Height is measured from the fretboard to the peak of the fret or its "crown." Width is measured from the top edge to the bottom edge of the fret. In other words, width is measured from the edge closest to the nut to the edge closest to the bridge.
3. Fretboard Markers
Most guitars feature position markers on the fretboard to help keep you oriented. Most Strat style guitars feature pearloid dot inlays. The double dots indicate the 12th fret. As you continue to explore up the neck, these positions markers will become very handy. Position markers are also listed on top of the fretboard. These dots are typically very small. Classical guitars are typically the only type of guitars that do not feature fretboard markers. Guitars manufactured by the Parker Company also do not feature fretboard markers.
4. Fretboard Wood
Maple produces a bright tone with a crisp, defined midrange. Maple fretboards must be finished. Consequently, many players do not like the feel of maple. A satin finish can be used to reduce the sticky feel of a maple fretboard.
Rosewood produces a warmer, darker tone with less treble frequencies than maple. Rosewood does not require a finish. Consequently, it has a natural oily texture.
Ebony is an extremely hard and dense wood. Consequently, it produces a tight tone that is slightly brighter than the average maple fretboard. Similar to rosewood, ebony necks do not require a finish. Due to the density of the wood, ebony does not absorb natural oils as readily as rosewood. This results in a slicker or faster feeling board.
E. The Body
Acoustic guitars have shoulders, hips, and a waist. The large chamber connected to the neck is called the body. The top part of the body is called the soundboard. The bridge is connected to the saddle, which in turn is connected to the soundboard. The strings connect to the bridge at this end of the guitar. Striking the strings produces vibrations, which exit through the soundhole.
F. The Bridge
The bridge performs the same jobs as the nut at the opposite end of the guitar. The strings are anchored to the body at the bridge. It also maintains even spacing between each of strings. The height of the strings above the guitar is also maintained by the bridge.
Bridge pins securely hold the strings in place. These pins must be removed when you change your strings.
Classical and electric guitars do not have bridge pins. On a classical guitar, the strings are looped and tied around the bridge. Electric guitar strings have small steel balls on the ends that hold each string tightly against the bridge.
G. The Saddle
The bridge and bridge pins are mounted on a piece of wood called the saddle. In turn, the saddle is mounted on the body.
H. The Pickguard
The pickguard protects the body from damage. The pick will gradually damage the body over time as a result of constant contact. The pickguard prevents this costly problem from occurring.
F. Strap Pegs (Pins)
Most guitars feature two strap pegs. One is typically located on the side of the body directly in line with the bridge. The other is placed close to the upper side of the neck.
Strap locks will ensure that your strap remains attached to the strap pegs. They can be purchased at almost any store where guitars are sold. Straps have a tendency to work their way loose over time. If you are standing up while playing, you could accidentally drop your guitar to the floor and damage it. At the very least, this mishap will negatively affect your performance.
You can have pins added by a luthier if your guitar does not have them. However, this requires drilling holes in the body. You must have a reliable professional do this work. Do NOT drill holes for strap pegs in a nylon string (classical) guitar. This will cause a severe loss in tonal quality. Classical or nylon string guitars (this includes flamenco models as well) must be played with a footstool, suction cups or with a clamp stand when playing standing up.
Additional Anatomy for the Electric Guitar
The pickups sense the vibration of the strings. This vibration is transformed into an electric signal that passes through the guitar cable and comes out of the amplifier. Most Strats feature three single coil pickups. The other type of guitar pickup is called a "humbucker." Les Pauls feature two humbucking pickups. Humbuckers are essentially two single coil pickups that are wired together.
1. Single Coils
Single coils feature a much brighter, biting tone compared to humbuckers. This can be an advantage or a disadvantage depending on the style of music you play.
A humbucker is comprised of two coils wired together. The two coils are wound in the opposite direction to cancel or "buck" noise or hum. Since both of the coils are wired in series, the resulting tone is significantly louder than a single coil. Humbuckers also produce a fatter tone with slightly less treble compared to a single coil.
3. Active vs. Passive Pickups
Pickups are either active or passive. Pickups are inherently passive transducers. Active pickups incorporate additional electronic circuitry to modify the basic signal.
a. Passive Pickups
-Passive pickups do not require an outside power source.
-Tonal signature is unique to each manufacturer.
-More accurate at capturing the unique nuances of an individual player.
b. Active Pickups
-Increased headroom and dynamic range
-Less noise is produced.
-Less defined tonal signature
-Flatter frequency response curve
-Extra power source required
B. Pickup Selector Switch
A toggle switch is used to select a specific pickup(s). The positions of the toggle switch are setup just like the pickups. There are five possible pickup selections available on most Strats. Three of the positions are for each of the single coil pickups. The in between positions blend the sound of the bridge and middle pickup or the neck and the middle pickup. The bridge pickup features a bright, treble sound. The neck pickup produces a warmer, bassier sound. The middle pickup produces a middle ground sound between these two extremes. Experiment with your guitar and explore the different tones that each pickup produces. Compare the sound of a single note played with each of the pickup options.
C. Volume and Tone Control(s)
Most Strats feature a single volume knob that controls the volume of all three pickups. Les Pauls feature two volume controls - one control for each pickup.
Most guitars feature two tone controls - one for the bridge and one for the neck pickup. When the tone control is turned down, the high end or treble is decreased.
D. Output Jack
The electric guitar connects to the amplifier through a patch cable. The patch cable connects to the output jack of the guitar. Typically, the jack is located somewhere around the side of the body or the front of the body near the volume and tone controls.
E. Bridge Systems for Electric Guitars
1. Floating Tremolo
Most Strat style guitars have floating tremolos. The tremolo is the "whammy bar" that is used to lower or raise the pitch of a note. Pressing the bar downwards lowers the pitch of a note. Pulling the bar upwards raises the pitch. You cannot alter the pitch as much with this system as with a double locking system. Springs that are covered by a plate on the back of the body help maintain equilibrium and keep the strings in tune.
2. Fixed Bridge
These systems do not feature a whammy bar. They are installed on most Gibson style guitars.
3. Double Locking Tremolo
Refer to the "Lesson Information" section of lesson 1 from Kris Norris' Phase 2 lesson series to learn about double locking tremolos.
A tailpiece is installed on electric guitars that do not feature a tremolo of any kind. The strings are held in place by the tailpiece. From here, the strings run over top of the bridge at an angle to supply extra tension and maintain stability of the strings.
Choosing a Guitar
Acoustic Vs Electric
Around the early 60's it became a popular notion that every beginning guitar student should first learn on an acoustic. Parents with little or no musical experience spread this idea. Although the logic behind this argument is understandable, the argument bears little truth. This false argument gained popularity for several reasons. Starting a child on an acoustic guitar cuts out the expense of equipment such as an amplifier and a patch cable. However, since the electric guitar is far more popular than its acoustic counterpart, the price of a typical entry level electric is more affordable than the typical entry-level acoustic. In addition, many companies such as Fender sell a combination package that includes the guitar, amplifier, patch cable, and electronic tuner at a very affordable price. Many parents prefer to buy their child an acoustic because it is a quieter instrument. Parents in the 60's associated the sound of the electric guitar with the eardrum busting tones of Pete Townsend and Jimi Hendrix. These parents failed to realize that an electric guitar's volume level is controllable. Also, most practice amps are outfitted with a 1/4" headphone jack for silent practice. Finally, many parents believe that it is much easier to learn the basics on an acoustic guitar. This could not be farther from the truth. Due to lower tension and action of the strings, it is far easier to learn solid fundamental technique on an electric guitar.
There is only one good reason to choose an acoustic guitar for your child's first instrument. A child should start on an acoustic guitar ONLY if the music that he/she desires to play is primarily performed on an acoustic. If you are planning to buy your child his/her first guitar, work together with your child to conduct thorough research. As a result, you will both sleep soundly knowing the best possible selection was made.
Buying a guitar is a lot like buying a car. Regardless of whether it's the first or fifth car you've bought, you still have to do your homework. Before you hit the streets to find a new guitar, there are some necessary preliminary steps that must be taken.
1. First, you must determine a price range.
Roughly all guitars (with the exception of classical guitars) fall into three price range categories. However, price is not always an accurate indicator of quality.
A. $0-450: Beginner Quality
B. $450-950 Intermediate Quality
C. $950+ Professional Quality
2. Narrow the field.
You must form a general idea of the ideal instrument. Do you want an acoustic or an electric? Do you want a guitar with humbuckers or single coil pickups?
A. Observe Your Heroes
This is the single best piece of advice for anyone looking for a new axe. Whose guitar sound do you admire most? What guitar does he/she play? Do many of your favorite guitarist play the same guitar or a similar type of guitar? When choosing your first guitar, you most likely won't want to shell out the cash to get the same guitar your heroes play. However, it's a great idea to take some notes regarding the features that these guitars have. This way, you can look for a less expensive model that resembles the ideal sound you are looking for.
B. Set Some Preliminary Goals
Do you want to perform publicly or just play for your own personal enjoyment? This has a large bearing on which guitar you should eventually choose.
C. Don't Stress Out!
Choosing a guitar should be an enjoyable process. Regardless of your price range, there is a great guitar out there for you. Keep in mind that the price tag is not always an accurate indicator of quality.
D. Start Simple
It's best not to start your training on an instrument that features a lot of bells and whistles. Stay away from guitars that feature double locking tremolos. As a beginner, this tremolo system is undoubtedly more trouble than it is worth. You can also upgrade to a more complicated instrument later if you so desire.
3. Where to Shop
Over the past few decades the retail industry has undergone some drastic changes. The retail music industry is no exception. Gigantic chain retail stores have replaced multiple small businesses across the globe. Although giant stores such as Guitar Center or Sam Ash sell equipment at lower prices, the customer receives less quality per dollar spent. Instruments at these stores are not cared for at all. Once an order is received into inventory guitars are simply taken out of their cases and thrown on the walls. From this point they are handled daily by numerous customers who typically have no interest in buying the instrument they are test-driving. As a result, guitars diminish in quality the longer they hang on Guitar Center’s walls. Also, the sales representatives in these stores are rarely knowledgeable. Lastly, customer service and satisfaction is not a high priority, because the sheer volume of customers is simply unmanageable.
We recommend that you shop for your first instrument at a store that is not part of a large retail chain. Ask a respected professional in your area where he or she shops. For example, the Drinking Gourd Music Store in Dayton, Ohio is a long standing favorite among professionals living in the Midwest. When a guitar arrives at a store of this quality, professionals carefully inspect the guitar for any possible defects. A full professional set-up is then performed. Key issues such as the quality of fret installation are also addressed before the guitar is hung on the wall. From the moment a customer walks in the store, he or she receives excellent customer service throughout the entire sales process. This excellent service continues after the guitar has been purchased. The salespeople at these stores are often professional players themselves. Their superior knowledge of the instrument enables them to help each customer find the perfect guitar.
Chapter 4: (01:32) String Height
The string height or "action" is measured from the top of the frets to the strings in 1/32 of an inch. It is NOT measured from the fretboard. Consequently, the height of the fret will have a large impact on the feel of the action. For the most part, action is a matter of personal preference. Higher action and lower action both have their advantages and disadvantages. Many beginners struggle when playing with high action. For this reason, it should be set relatively low when first starting out. You can always raise it up over time as you become more experienced. Have any sort of action or set-up work done by a professional repair person or luthier. A set-up usually costs anywhere from $25 to $70 depending on the repair person.
Most instruments are set-up at the factory with higher action then necessary. Typically, a set-up must be performed when the guitar arrives at the store. Chain stores usually do not do this work. That's why you are most likely to find a great guitar off the wall at a smaller, higher quality independent shop.
1. Low Action
-Low action facilitates playing rapid, single note lines.
-Less pressure is required to fret a note properly.
-Action that is too low will cause a buzzing sound when the string vibrates against the frets.
-It is difficult to perform bends properly on a guitar with very low action.
-Slide guitar is not a possibility.
2. High Action
-With higher action, it is easier to dig into the strings for techniques such as bending and vibrato.
-High action is most conducive to playing slide guitar.
-A louder tone is produced since the strings have more room to vibrate.
-More pressure is required to fret the strings. This problem is magnified when playing barre chords.
3. Dave's Preference
Since Dave plays a lot of shred style hard rock, he prefers relatively low action. This is pretty common among hard rock and metal players.
4. String Gauge
As a beginner, start off with a lighter string set such as 9 or 10 gauge. Playing with smaller strings is very helpful as you begin to develop your finger muscles and calluses. Most electric guitars with the exception of hollowbodies are set up in the factory with 9 gauge strings. If you wish to switch to a 10 gauge set, you must have a set-up performed by a reliable professional.
Chapter 5: (05:12) String Names and More
Open String Names
The tuning process begins with learning the name of the note produced by each "open" string. A string is played open when the left hand is not used on the fretboard.
The thickest string (closest to the ceiling) is referred to as the sixth string. This string produces the pitch "E."
5th string - A
4th string - D
3rd string - G
2nd string - B
1st string - E
Memorize these string names as soon as possible. This information is extremely rudimentary and important. A lot of what you will learn later expands upon this basic information. Notice how the lowest and the highest string are both tuned to the note E. The "high" E string is tuned two octaves higher than the lowest string.
To remember the string names, use Eve Goldberg's pneumonic device: "eat a darn good breakfast everyday. Or, you can use Mary Flower's pneumonic device: "every acid dealer gets busted eventually."
Chapter 6: (04:03) Note Relations
Unlike instruments such as the piano or wind or brass instruments, the exact same note can be played on the guitar in several different locations. The A note produced by the open fifth string is also located at the 5th fret of the sixth string. Although these notes produce the exact same pitch in the same octave, the tone or timbre of each note is slightly different. For example, open string notes sound a little brighter and sustain longer. Compare the sound of the open A string (5th string) and an A note played at the 5th fret of the sixth string. How would you describe the difference in tone between these two notes?
This feature of the guitar adds to its never ending versatility since you can play notes and even whole chords in more than one location of the fretboard. You will learn how to use this feature to your advantage as you continue to progress through the lessons on JamPlay.
When two notes that are identical in pitch, but played at different fretboard locations, they are said to be played in "unison." Unisons are used frequently in all styles of music. One famous application is the introduction section to Stevie Ray Vaughn's "Pride and Joy." Dave provides a brief demonstration of this introduction at 02:40.
This relationship between open strings and notes at the fifth fret occurs between each pair of adjacent strings. The only exception is the third and second strings. The open second string produces a B note. This note is located at the 4th fret of the third string.
Learning the note relationships above are essential to the tuning process. You must tune the guitar prior to every practice session. It does not matter how recently you played it. The guitar is not like a piano. The strings go out of tune much more quickly. They will slip out of tune in a matter of hours as the guitar sits in its case. Get in a habit of tuning your guitar prior to performing your daily warm-up exercises. If your guitar is not in tune, everything you play will sound bad regardless of how well you play it.
There are many ways to tune the guitar. One popular method is the "Fifth Fret Method."
The Fifth Fret Method
Tune the sixth string to a piano or some outside source like a pitch pipe. A tuning fork will enable you to get the A string in tune.
Once the low sixth string is in tune, use the following process.
Fret the note A at the 5th fret of the 6th string. Match the pitch of the open 5th string to this note.
Fret the note D at the 5th fret of the 5th string. Match the pitch of the open 4th string to this note.
Fret the note G at the 5th fret of the 4th string. Match the pitch of the open 3rd string to this note.
Fret the note B at the 4th fret of the 3rd string. Match the pitch of the open 2nd string to this note. This string features the only exception to the fifth fret method.
Fret the note E at the 5th fret of the 2nd string. Match the pitch of the open first string to this note.
The tuning listed above is referred to as "standard tuning." Other alternate tunings are sometimes used. These tunings are discussed in other lessons on JamPlay.com.
Tuning by ear is a skill that must be developed over time. Until you master this process, use some sort of electronic tuning device to help you.
Purchasing a Tuner
Eventually, you will need to learn how to tune the guitar by ear. For now though, use an electronic tuner to help with this process. A reliable electronic tuner can be purchased at your local guitar store for around fifteen dollars. The Korg GA-30 Guitar/Bass Tuner is a great choice for beginning guitarists. This tuner also features a built-in microphone. The microphone allows you to tune an acoustic guitar without plugging a patch cable into the tuner.
Professional tuners such as the Boss TU-2 are designed for live performance situations. Chances are that you will not need a tuner of this quality to start with. These tuners require the use of two cables. They also have two outputs. One output silences the guitar signal when tuning. The other keeps the guitar amplified while tuning.
Using an Electronic Tuner
When using the tuner, the string number or open string note name will light up as it is plucked. A meter will indicate whether the note is sharp or flat. If the meter is to the left of center, then the string is flat. If it is right of center, then the string is sharp. If the appropriate string number or pitch does not show up, the note is too far sharp or flat for the tuner to register properly.
If you have any sort of a floating tremolo, you have to go through the tuning process twice if not three times. When the tuning of one string is changed, the tuning of the other strings adjusts slightly to even out the tension placed on the neck. This is one disadvantage of a floating or double locking tremolo system.
All tuners are slightly flighty. You have probably experienced this with your own tuner. Do not worry! Your tuner is not defective! Electronic tuners are highly sensitive devices. A number of issues can cause them to produce an inconclusive result. Extraneous noise in the room can confuse your tuner. As a result, you must minimize the amount of noise in the close proximity of the tuner. Sympathetic vibrations coming from other strings will also produce an inconclusive result. Mute all of the strings with the exception of the string you are tuning to eliminate this problem. In addition, always tune up to the desired pitch instead of down. This tends to produce a more accurate result.
Roll the tone knob all of the way down on your electric guitar when tuning.
The location of where you pick also effects the tuning process. Try picking the string directly in the middle of the fretboard (the 12th fret). Do not pick the string too hard. This will cause the string to go sharp at first. Give the note time to settle in with the tuner. Let the note sustain for a second or two before taking the reading from the tuner. This becomes less of a problem when tuning strings of higher tension. It's easy to over attack a guitar strung with 8 or 9 gauge strings.
Improper String Installation
Improperly installed strings also cause tuning issues. Make sure your strings are fresh and in working condition. Fresh strings are always easier to keep in tune.
Creaking noises while tuning can be caused by a wrap of the string slipping out of place. Also, this problem can be caused by the string being pinched too tightly as it slides through the nut. This tension might equalize in the middle of a performance and knock your guitar out of tune. You can lubricate the nut with graphite from a pencil if you are experiencing this problem. Or, you can buy special lubrication from the guitar shop.
Playing with a capo can cause tuning problems. The capo must be placed in the proper location and checked with a tuner. If it is clamped too tightly or too close to the fret, it will force the string to sound sharp. To eliminate this problem, give the strings a small tug after clamping on a capo. As a result, the strings will go slightly flat and balance out the problem.
A guitar with a warped neck and / or defective tuners will never stay in tune. Take your guitar to a professional repairman to address this issue.
Always tune up to a pitch instead of down to it. The tuning remains stable longer when the strings are tuned in this manner.
Standard Tuning / Alternate Tunings
The tuning described in this scene is referred to as "standard tuning" or A=440 (the note A is defined as the frequency 440 Hz). Many guitarists employ alternate tunings or tune the strings down to achieve a lower sound. Keep this in mind as you learn and explore the guitar. In addition, many guitarists prefer to play guitars with extended ranges such as a baritone guitar or a 7 or 8 string guitar. For now, do not concern yourself with alternate tunings. Learn the basic fundamentals of playing in standard tuning first. Then, experiment with the alternate tunings once you have learned some fundamental basics.
Chapter 7: (03:09) Using the Left Hand
When first learning the guitar, it is best to isolate one hand at a time. This will enable you to devote all of your attention to one hand. As a result, your technique will be more solid, and you will be able to start playing some actual music more quickly.
Left Hand Guidelines
1. Keep the left hand in a natural, relaxed position at all times. Do not squeeze the neck!
2. Keep the thumb perpendicular to the neck. Do not curl the thumb or bring it up over the top of the neck. Also, Do not turn the thumb so that it runs parallel to the back of the neck. This greatly limits the range of motion of each finger.
There are some exceptions to this rule that will be discussed later in the series.
3. Keep all left hand joints slightly bent. Do not flatten any of the knuckles.
4. Keep the left hand fingernails as short as possible.
5. Fret the strings with the very tips of the fingers. Arching the wrist outwards will help accomplish this goal. Utilizing this technique will prevent you from bumping any of the adjacent strings. Making contact with adjacent strings will prevent them from ringing clearly.
6. Keep the wrist slightly bent.
7. Keep the palm parallel to the bottom of the neck. Do not tilt the wrist from side to side. This will limit the range of motion for each of the fingers.
8. Keep the fingers as close to the fretboard at all times. This will ensure that each finger is prepared to play when called upon.
In order to improve your technique, you must work on it each day. Improving technique is like playing a sport or weight lifting. It must be done consistently in order to make any noticeable improvement.
Proper Fretting Technique
When fretting any note, always follow the guidelines listed below.
1. Fret the note with the very tip of the finger.
2. Position the finger as close to the fret wire as possible without being directly over top of it. Otherwise, you will most likely produce a note that rattles or buzzes.
3. Press the string down just hard enough to produce a clear tone.
First Position Fretting Exercise
Tablature and standard notation to this exercise can be found under the "Supplemental Content" tab.
Follow the proper left technique guidelines listed above as you work through this exercise. Essentially, an open string note as well as notes played by each of the fingers is played on each string. This exercise will get you acquainted with the basic mechanics of fretting a note with each of the fingers. It will also enhance the flexibility, strength, and dexterity of each finger. For most of you, it is probably an uncomfortable stretch to reach the notes played at the 3rd and 4th frets of each string. Do not worry! This is perfectly natural! With diligent practice, these difficult stretches will become comfortable in no time.
Also, pay attention to the note names of each fret / string location. Eventually, you will need to have this information memorized. You are better off learning it sooner rather than later.
Definition of Position
All of the notes presented in this scene are played within "first position." Position refers to the area of the fretboard in which the left hand plays. Specifically, position indicates the fret at which the first finger plays. First position includes all of the notes played as open strings and all of the notes located within the first four frets.
Within first position, certain fingering rules must be followed. The left hand finger used corresponds with the fret number. For example, the first finger is used to play all of the notes at the first fret. The second finger frets all notes at the second fret and so on.
Chapter 8: (05:45) Right Hand and Alternate Picking
As mentioned previously, each of the hands should be isolated when first learning basic technique. This will allow you to focus all of your attention on the mechanics of a single hand. For this reason, all of the right hand exercises presented in this lesson involve open strings. The left hand is not used to fret any notes.
I. Choosing a Pick
When it comes to choosing a pick, there really is no right and wrong. Picks come in a wide variety of shapes, sizes, thicknesses, and textures.
A. Pick Size / Shape
Almost all picks are made in relatively the same shape. There is a broad end and a pointed end. However, there is a wide variety of choices within this stipulation. The majority of picks are taller than they are wide and measure roughly one inch in height. A common example of this pick type is the Dunlop Tortex. However, there are other options available. For example, Fender makes a pick that is just as wide as it is round. Fender also makes picks in the shape of isosceles and equilateral triangles. Most guitarists can't stand these picks. However, System of a Down / Scars Over Broadway guitarist Daron Malakian has been known to use these picks almost exclusively. Finally, most jazz players prefer a very small pick. This allows the picking hand to be as close to the strings as possible. This is not desirable for players who frequently palm mute.
B. Pick Texture
Ideally, you want to choose a pick that is easy to hold onto. For example, many players find the Dunlop Tortex and Dunlop Nylon picks very easy to hang onto. The Dunlop Nylon picks have a convex logo printed on them that makes them easier to grip. However, players with very dry skin often find these picks difficult to hold onto. These players usually prefer picks with smoother surfaces such as picks made by Fender.
Almost all JamPlay instructors recommend that you play with a medium or heavy pick. Thin picks produce an annoying clicking sound when they strike the string. They also tend produce a very weak tone. However, make sure that you do not choose a pick that is too thick. Picks that are too thick are clumsy and awkward to use. Using such a pick also puts you at a higher risk of string breakage.
D. JamPlay Recommendation
When starting out, it is best to use a pick that represents the middle of the road. Use a standard shaped pick of medium to heavier thickness. The Gretsch and Fender Medium are two great picks that meet this description. As you advance as a player and become more stylized, you will probably find that a certain type of pick works better for you. For example, a thicker and slightly smaller pick might work better for rapid single note lines that occur frequently in metal and jazz music. If you find yourself playing a lot of strummed acoustic music, you might want to use a thinner, more flexible pick.
II. Holding the Pick
In order to properly swing a golf club, you must first learn how to hold it. Similarly, in order to use your picking hand properly, you first have to learn how to hold the pick.
A. Method 1
Holding a pick is often compared to the act of shaking someone's hand. When holding the pick, keep the wrist straight. Do not curl the wrist inwards or outwards. Curl the index finger inwards until the side of the finger rests directly under the fleshy pad of the thumb. The pick should be gripped between the side of the first finger and the pad of the thumb. Do not grip the pick between the pads of both fingers. This will contort your wrist into an awkward position.
Do not grip the pick too tightly! Relaxation and comfortability are the most important components of proper playing technique. Hold the pick with just enough pressure so that it does not fall out of your hand. Gripping the pick tightly will result in unwanted tension in the finger, palm, and forearm muscles. This tightness will cause unnecessary fatigue. Fatigue will lead to slower playing speeds and decreased accuracy.
There are two other acceptable ways to hold the guitar pick. However, they are not as widely accepted by qualified guitar instructors.
B. Method 2
Some players, such as Metallica's James Hetfield and Krist Novoselic of Nirvana, Sweet 75, and Flipper prefer to hold the pick between the pads of the thumb and both the index and middle fingers. These players feel that this method provides them with the firmest, most stable grip on the pick. It also allows them to play with punishing heaviness.
C. Method 3
Eddie Van Halen has been known to grip the pick between the pad of his thumb and the pad of his middle finger. This method frees up his first finger for rapid tapping licks. This method is not recommended unless you play tapped licks very frequently.
Regardless of which method you eventually choose, slightly less than a fourth of an inch of the pick should extend outward from the fingers holding it. This is the only portion of the pick that should make contact with the strings. Almost all guitarists strike the strings with the pointed side of the pick. However, some jazz players such as Scott Henderson advocate holding the pick upside down. Scott holds his pick this way in order to achieve a slightly softer, darker tone.
III. Pick Angle
The angle at which the pick strikes the strings has a huge impact on tone production. Holding the pick totally parallel to the string yields the brightest tone. JamPlay instructor Dennis Hodges prefers to hold his pick this way. However, the tone produced by this method may not be ideal for you. Other instructors such as Matt Brown prefer to slightly angle the pick into the strings. This produces a slightly darker tone similar to the effect of rolling down the tone control by 1 or two settings.
The pick angle also has a profound effect on rapid picking. Some players prefer to angle the pick slightly when tremolo picking so that the pick slices through the string. Other players find this technique undesirable and choose to keep the pick parallel to the string while tremolo picking.
If you do not have a "hitchhiker" thumb, you will most likely not be able to hold the pick perfectly parallel to the string. If this is the case, do not try to force the thumb into a position that is uncomfortable. The thumb should remain as relaxed as possible at all times.
IV. Picking Motion
Almost all guitarists generate the picking motion completely from the wrist muscles. The forearm only gets involved when three or more strings are strummed simultaneously. However, some players prefer to generate the picking motion between the thumb and index finger. The thumb pushes the index finger towards the middle finger to produce a downstroke. Allowing these fingers to return to their normal, relaxed position produces an upstroke. Dave Navarro is a strong advocate of this technique.
V. Fingers Not Holding the Pick
Keep these fingers as relaxed as possible. Many players prefer to curl them inwards towards the palm. Or, you can let them extend out naturally.
VI. Picking Motions
There are two types of picking motions: downstrokes and upstrokes. Both type of strokes must be developed equally. Due to the force of gravity, your downstroke will naturally be stronger. Consequently, you must spend a significant amount of practice time compensating for the weakness of the upstroke.
VII. Alternate Picking
Alternate picking is a technique that enables a guitarist to play much faster. It is defined by a repetitious picking in which the pick changes direction with each stroke. If you currently use downstrokes exclusively, your right hand is extremely limited in the range of what it can perform.
Alternate picking is also commonly referred to as “double picking.”
A. Alternate Picking Rules
1. Rest the palm of your right hand on the bridge when playing a double picked passage. The palm should also rest on the bridge when playing any scalar line.
3. The palm SHOULD NOT rest on the bridge when playing any passage that involves strummed chords or string skipping. The right forearm rests on the upper body of the guitar to provide stability. This technique allows the right hand to move more fluidly. If your wrist is anchored to the bridge, the range of motion of the right hand is not large enough to accommodate the aforementioned techniques.
4. Downstrokes and upstrokes must be identical in tone and volume.
5. Your pick strokes need only be large enough to create a solid tone. Keep the pick as close to the string as possible at all times. This will enable you to double pick much faster.
6. Only the very tip of the pick should make contact with the strings. Do not dig your pick into the strings. This will hinder your ability to move fluidly from one string to the next.
7. The right hand fingers not holding the pick should remain slightly curled into the palm. They should only fan outwards when playing rapid palm muted passages in the rock and metal genres.
8. Make sure that the right hand remains steady. Do not allow it to bounce up and down.
9. Keep the right hand as relaxed as possible at all times. Grip the pick with just enough force so that it does not fall out of your hand. Squeezing the pick too tightly will destroy your endurance.
B. Two Methods of Alternate Picking
There are two ways in which alternate picking can be performed. Both are equally valid options. Experiment with both options for a significant amount of time. After this initial experimentation period, decide which technique is more comfortable for you.
- Use the wrist as a pivot to alternate pick.
- This method almost excludes the wrist entirely. The thumb squeezes inwards toward the palm during a downstroke. For an upstroke, the thumb and first finger relax and return to their normal position. Thus, almost all of the picking movement originates from the thumb and first finger. This technique is generally more comfortable for guitarists that have a hitchhiker thumb.
As you first practice alternate or double picking, play with a single open string. Dave demonstrates this exercise with the open sixth string (E). This will eliminate the left hand from the equation. Practice alternate picking at a slow tempo.
Play the basic open E string exercise using all downstrokes and all upstrokes as well. It is not practical to play with all upstrokes in a piece of music. However, this exercise will help you achieve a balance in tone and volume between your downstrokes and upstrokes.
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