How to Play Jeni Lani by Mark Lincoln (Guitar Lesson)

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Mark Lincoln

Jeni Lani

Mark Lincoln teaches his original song "Jeni Lani." He also throws in a good deal of useful music knowledge.

Taught by Mark Lincoln in Songs with Mark seriesLength: 31:57Difficulty: 2.5 of 5
Chapter 1: (31:57) Jeni Lani In this lesson I'm going to teach you how to play my song entitled "Jeni Lani." This is one of the first songs that I wrote as an aspiring singer-song writer and composed it when I was just sixteen years old. Although it's really not about anybody specifically, I "borrowed" the name from a girl in my high school (although I spell it differently to protect the innocent) even though I didn't know her personally. Her name simply seemed to fit in with the melody that I had composed. Many of you have heard this song on my website as well as in live performances and have shown considerable interest in it as a performance piece. In this lesson, I'll break down the song into its various pieces and show you how to turn a simple song like this into a potentially great tune.

Despite the fact that Jeni Lani is played using only four chords (Em, G, C and D) I use other facets of playing and recording to make it fuller sounding and interesting to the ear. I incorporate the use of arpeggios, shifts in dynamics, as well as harmonies during the chorus to combine different sounds, different techniques that help to fill in some of the gaps that are sometimes present in such a simple arrangement. When these techniques are coupled with the use of a simple lead break, an unadorned arrangement such as Jeni Lani can be an interesting and enjoyable song. Let's take a look at the chords we'll be using in this piece, shall we?





These same four chords are also played in the upper positions as such:

Em (7th fret)

G (7th fret)

C 8th fret

D 10th fret

Please play through all of the chords and make sure that you're intimately familiar with each of them. You may find the chords on the upper frets to be a little difficult at first but I'll show you the best way to play them as we work our way through the lesson. Make sure that you are relaxed and able to strum the chords smoothly and without muting strings that should not be muted.

Jeni Lani begins with a series of arpeggios utilizing the Em, G and C chords. If you're not familiar with using arpeggios, you can practice using them with these three chords until you have become more comfortable with them. Watch me in the video for more on this and take note of the fact that you will be spending less time picking the notes of the G chord than you will be on the Em and C chords. In essence, the G chord is a transition chord from the Em into the C chord. And in lieu of the fact that you will only be picking the low E, A and D strings you don't even need to hold down the entire chord. Subsequently, you can make the G chord like this when doing the arpeggiated portion of the song:


This is a way to simplify the process of using arpeggios and form the chords using only the strings necessary to produce the notes you need. As we begin the strumming portion of the song though you should form the G chord as indicated earlier in order to get the full sound. Please practice the Intro to the song using arpeggios until you feel comfortable with the process.

You'll notice a change in the dynamics or volume and intensity of the chords as I play through the song. The intro is rather quiet and subdued and the song remains so until the middle of the first verse. Then you will likely notice an obvious increase in the volume of my playing. This is a helpful technique that can help to control mood and passion, especially when playing such a simple song. Watch me in the video as I gradually increase the volume of my playing as well as the volume of my voice but take note that the points at which I'm making those dynamic changes are at very specific points in the composition. I don't change it from time to time or performance to performance! That's not to say that you might opt to make changes in your own songs as you play them at varying points in your performance career and honestly, most of my songs have changed over time to one degree or another. But the dynamic shifts in this song are premeditated and have been tried and tested over time.

I'm mentioning this to you right now so you may become more aware of how to use dynamic changes to control the flow and overall mood of Jeni Lani as well as your own songs. Learning to control the relative volume of different parts of a song can be a great tool to add to your tool box both in the processes of composition as well as performance. Pay attention to how those changes in volume affect the mood as the song progresses.

Silence and Stalls
Jeni Lani also employs the use of a couple of other techniques, the first being silence. In between certain phrases the song is simply silent and this facet highlights the louder parts of the song. This is also a part of changing the dynamics where silence is the extreme to one end of the spectrum and louder, more pronounced parts (usually the chorus) are at the other end. Silent parts can be especially powerful in a simple and folk-ish song like Jeni Lani that doesn't have the chord complexities or instrumentation that other more rocking tunes have. Watch how the silent parts of this song contribute to the dynamic shift of the song as well as how they might affect you, on an emotional level, as well.

The other technique in need of mention is the stall. Stalls also utilize the profoundness of silence but in a different way. Stalls usually employ a kind of "building" of momentum and often occur after a louder or faster part of the song. Again, this sudden dropping off of sound can have a powerful effect on the relative emotion and dynamic flow of the song and creates a sort of hanging tension. Once, the next chord is struck, the tension is subsequently resolved and the song continues. Pay attention to how Jeni Lani uses the stall and how this affects your mood as well as the song.

Singing and Playing...simultaneously!
I'm hoping that some, or most of you have spent some time in the performance series becoming accustomed to playing and singing at the same time. But if you haven't then there are a couple of points that I feel compelled to share with you at this time. Singing and playing can be challenging so if you don't have a lot of experience with it, here are a couple of things to remember:
1) Make sure to warm-up your voice properly. Take a look at my voice and performance series for more on this (found on the site in the Phase 2 section). It is extremely important to make sure and warm up before singing to avoid any harm to your vocal chords and to reach your maximum potential as a singer as well.

2) Take it slowly at first and hum the melody of the song while playing the chords. If you are a beginner you may want to spend some substantial time just getting the rhythm down first before attempting to sing just to make sure that you're not taking too much on at once. If you're struggling with the chords and with the vocal parts as well it can make learning a song more difficult than it needs to be.

3) "Acquire" the rhythm- this is an extremely important facet of singing and playing and what I mean by "acquire" is this: singing and playing at the same time can require a certain degree of autopilot, when it comes to playing the rhythm of the song. In other words, you need to be able to focus less on the rhythm and more on the singing in order to put the piece together effectively. Consequently, you'll need to master the rhythm portion of the song so that you can, in a sense, forget about it while you are singing. That's not to say that you will play the rhythm parts poorly (we hope not, right?) but rather that you have "acquired" the rhythm, digested it, mastered it so well that you no longer have to focus upon it like you did when you first began learning it. This skill can take some time and the more complex the rhythm becomes whether it's off-beat or having an anomalous time-signature, the more difficult it can be to "acquire" it. Please make sure and "acquire" the rhythm portions of Jeni Lani so that you will be able to play it with the poise and confidence that you are capable, and that the piece deserves.
Please open up the lyrics and chords sheet in the supplemental content and try to play the song!

Alright, how did you do with it? Were you able to play along with me after you got a handle on the chords? Keep in mind that the chords on the upper frets that I gave you earlier are meant to be played over the top of the open chords adding thickness and depth top the rhythm. You might want to try and play those chords while I'm playing the open chords in the video.

If you've never heard my recording of this song please go to and listen to it as I've recorded it. This will give you a little better idea of how the song sounds as a whole and recorded in a professional studio. You will notice that I harmonize with myself during the chorus which adds a lot to the overall thickness and depth of the singing. If you have someone who can sing along with you when playing live or even at home, you can also try this simple process which can take a simple chorus like "Jeni's been gone such a long time" and make it into something more complex and beautiful.

If you are not familiar with intervals, you may be interested to know that most simple harmonies are usually done either in thirds or fifths. In the case of thirds this means that the harmony part is simply three half steps or half tones above the lead vocal part. You may want to practice singing along with me on the video to see if you can find the third above what Im singing (I'll give you a little help too)!

Hybrid Picking/Strumming
I'm assuming that you noticed that I use a combination of picking with strumming during the rhythm portion of the song. And in fact, there are parts where I pick notes (arpeggiate) in one chord and then strum the next successive chord. Why do I do this you might be asking? This is simply another way to combine different techniques in order to keep the rhythm guitar interesting to me as well as the listener. Combining picking and strumming is also a great way to transition from a quieter part of a song into a louder possibly faster portion of the song and changing the dynamics of the song as I do so.

As usual, keeping the time signature straight in a particular song is of the utmost importance and Jeni Lani is no exception. Hence, when you are picking through the arpeggios you will need a way to keep time for yourself especially during the silent parts. I tend to either tap my foot, or keep time in my head employing what I like to call my "inner drummer." In Jeni Lani and during those parts where there is silence, in my head I can hear my drummer banging gently on a symbol. In other words, I hear the sound of symbols playing lightly and keeping time straight for me. This is a technique that many musicians use and although it does require you to have a good innate sense of time, it can be a very effective way to keep time. You can try this as well but you may want to verify that you are indeed keeping your time straight with a metronome or other device. Watch me in the video for more on this as well.

For those of you who have recording experience you will likely recognize and acknowledge the potential and power of some of the techniques that I've discussed with you today. But many of you may not have had the opportunity to see the inside of a recording studio although you have hopes to in the future. Current advancements in recording devices as well as innovative technicians can take the simplest of songs and make them into utter masterpieces. But for those of you who have yet to grace the inside of a studio and impart your most heartfelt and brilliant piece to the world I have one small piece of advice: be prepared! Even though most studios are equipped with an astronomical array of advanced equipment as well as the manpower to make it all function in the most magnificent and prudent manner possible, you will inevitably need to make sure that the song(s) you will be recording are perfect in every way. Even a simple song like Jeni Lani, despite the fact that there are only four chords, still utilizes a number of devices and techniques as you have seen. And if haven't nailed down all of the loose ends of your song including how it begins (intro) how it ends (outro), how your dynamics will progress, how you will use harmonies and if you will at all etc. You will end up spending an arm and a leg making those decisions while sitting in the studio. Good luck!

Video Subtitles / Captions


Member Comments about this Lesson

Discussions with our instructors are just one of the many benefits of becoming a member of JamPlay.

greyskiesgreyskies replied

Great song Mark..will be adding this to my repertoire.

Mark.LincolnMark.Lincoln replied

Thanks Coffee I'm glad you're enjoying it, just please don't play it better than me, ok? Mark

mazzystarlettemazzystarlette replied

Great lesson Mark. I did not realize this song was so simple. Well....the chords are simple. I love this song, thanks.

tangohuntertangohunter replied

Amazing song. I hope Mark's label doesn't pull it. :)

Mark.LincolnMark.Lincoln replied

Copyrite Mark Lincoln all rights pending etc etc worries! Mark

David.WallimannDavid.Wallimann replied

Very nice Mark! I love your intro! :-)

Mark.LincolnMark.Lincoln replied

Hey David what's up? Thanks for the feedback I appreciate it, see ya soon my friend! Mark

kevinacekevinace replied


Mark.LincolnMark.Lincoln replied

Hey Kevin nice to hear from you...Happy holidays! Mark

sean.egansean.egan replied

Thanks so much Mark--this is my favorite song of yours on your MySpace page and I'm glad you decided to give a lesson it. Great song!

Mark.LincolnMark.Lincoln replied

Thanks for your support Sean I really appreciate it my friend! Mark

tammy7689tammy7689 replied

great lesson! great song! thanks mark for sharing this with us..cant wait to get started

Mark.LincolnMark.Lincoln replied

Thanks Tammy I really hope you enjoy this one! Mark

jaybirdjaybird replied

Great lesson! I would like to know more about using digital recording at home; during practice sessions. I am considering buying a intro digital recorder EX Tascam or Zoom. Can Jamplay post a lesson to help me and others on how to effectively use a recorder. Thanks

Mark.LincolnMark.Lincoln replied

Hey Jaybird how are you? Thanks for the great feedback on the lesson and yes, Tascams can be great tools even for simply recording your own stuff for your own enjoyment. We'll see about doing some recording based lessons in the future, we've yet to explore those areas on the site. Mark

jaymosley79jaymosley79 replied

don't be tellin kids to gorge them selves with spagetti O's!! Dang It!

Mark.LincolnMark.Lincoln replied

But Jay, spaghetti-os is chock full o' vita-mins!

stratmusicstratmusic replied

ha ha ha...Jay, you should know by now..."no pain, no gain", even if that requires gorging on Spaghetti-Os

stratmusicstratmusic replied

Mark, this song grabbed me from the first time I heard it. I am so glad you did a lesson on it.

Mark.LincolnMark.Lincoln replied

Thank you Strat that means a great deal to me coming from you, thanks! See ya soon! Mark

Songs with Mark

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Learning to play songs is a rewarding and enjoyable way to put your guitar skills to the test. This series is all about learning great songs.

Jeni LaniLesson 3

Jeni Lani

Mark Lincoln teaches his original song "Jeni Lani." He also throws in a good deal of useful music knowledge.

Length: 31:57 Difficulty: 2.5 Members Only
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Length: 30:22 Difficulty: 3.5 Members Only
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Length: 37:52 Difficulty: 1.5 Members Only
Mark Lincoln

About Mark Lincoln View Full Biography Mark Lincoln was born in S. California but was raised near Portland Oregon in a town called Beaverton. When he was twelve years old, he began his journey into the realm of the creative by composing poetry and was later published in a journal called "In Dappled Sunlight." He wrote for four years until his older sister blessed him with his first guitar, an old beat-up nylon stringed classical guitar. Mark played that guitar for five years, continuing to compose his own lyrics and starting the process of matching his own words with chords that he was learning on the guitar. He learned to play chords from his friends and from music books that he both bought and borrowed. Mark cited his four biggest influences, at that point at least, as The Who, Led Zeppelin, Jethro Tull, The Rolling Stones.

Mark cites his most current influences as Radiohead, U2, older music by REM, and Peter Gabriel amongst others. He performs with two acoustic guitars, one being a six-string M-36 Martin with a three-pieced back for increased bass response, and a Guild Twelve-string which is his most recent acquisition. Mark is fond of saying that the twelve-string guitar is better because you get two guitars for the price of one, but he still plays his Martin equally as much and with the same passion.

Mark ended up in Fort Collins Colorado where he currently lives, works as a Marriage and Family Therapist, and continues to write, teach and perform music. He currently performs with a group called "Black Nelson" as well as with a number of other seasoned professional musicians including his cousin David, a virtuoso lead-guitar player. Mark has performed in many of the smaller venues in Denver and Boulder, as well as some of the larger ones including the Fox Theatre, The Boulder Theatre, Herman's Hideaway, and also at The Soiled Dove where he opened for Jefferson Starship as a soloist. Some of Mark's originals are also available for your listening pleasure on MySpace.

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