Archive for the ‘Playing Guitar’ Category

10 Things Guitarists Need

Wednesday, February 4th, 2009
  1. Less instructional books & DVDs (and other visually oriented instructional materials), more learning from auditory stimulus
  2. Less learning by watching
  3. Less patterns
  4. More listening, as differentiated from transcribing, kinda’ like critical listening, or just plain listening — perhaps with questions like “is this really good?”. Also, broader listening habits are a good thing.
  5. More listening to other players (and that doesn’t just mean “guitar players”)
  6. More practicing music, less practicing non-musical technique garbage
  7. More skills as an accompanyist (which includes but is not limited to more chords, more harmony knowledge, using more space, etc. etc.) In some part of guitar’s history it was considered a rhythm (section) instrument, not as much a solo instrument.
  8. Less gear, more time learning how to use the gear they have
  9. More time playing with others
  10. Less time on the Internet pontificating like I am right now.

Of course, I’m talking about myself with all of these. I’m sure no other guitar players match my description.

How I Approach Ted Greene’s Modern Chord Progressions

Saturday, January 19th, 2008

This is a great, great chord book from Ted. His other chord book, Chord Chemistry, is an essential reference book and is as deep as the ocean (as Ted himself was). I like Modern Chord Progressions a little better because it’s much more of a hands-on type book, full of musical examples that you can start using right away.

My approach to learning these progressions and voicings is a bit tedious, but I don’t believe there’s any hurry to learning this stuff the right way the first time, so the time spent doing it this way will pay off down the road. Besides, why cheat yourself out of a thorough knowledge of your instrument?

With each progression and set of voicing given, I play them through all 12 keys and I recite the chord name and chord quality. For instance, the first page of progressions is I-iii-IV-V-I. The first progression is C maj – E min7 – F/9 – G7(sus) – C maj7. I will actually recite those chord names and chord qualities (“add 9”, “G7 sus”) as I play each progression in every key. Then I got through the keys one more time but this time I sing the root, and recite the chord’s function and chord quality. For instance, I-maj – iii-min7 – IV-add9 – V7(sus) – I maj7.

By doing it this way, I learn the voicings, the chord qualities, and the movement of the progression as thoroughly as possible. One more thing I do is sing the roots of each chord while I’m reciting them, so I can internalize the sound of the root movements. I have a similar approach to Ted’s Jazz Single Note Soloing that I’ll explain in another post later.

Have fun with this one!

What ever happened to Fay Ray and Charlie Fechter?

Wednesday, January 9th, 2008

There was a great class taught at GIT by a guy name-a Charlie Fechter when I went there in ’87-’88 called Guitarmanship. It was all about eliminating the extra space between your fret hand and the fingerboard (like that floating pinky that rises a couple inches while the other fingers are busy playing) and also about minimizing the distance your pick travels between picking attacks.

The first, and main, exercise was that standard 1-2-3-4 exercise on each string in a parallel way (the one every guitarist and his uncle knows practically from day one, almost like the chromatic scale but not really). The twist with this exercise, however, is that you start with all 4 fingers of the LH holding down a note on a consecutive fret on the same string, say on the 6th string 5th position your left hand is holding down frets 5-6-7-8. Keep in mind that it’s a loose grip holding down the notes while playing on the next string, not a hammer grip. Also, start out higher on the fingerboard, esp. if you experience any discomfort holding the position. Excessive strain isn’t a good thing here, though you may feel it in a mild way. Don’t push it! If it hurts, stop.

Start the exercise with playing the D on the 5th string 5th fret with your first finger, but only moving it from where it is holding down the A on the 6th string 5th fret at the precise moment you are going to attack the string with your pick. –It’s to be done slowly, with no tempo/metronome– Then do the same with the next finger. Bring it over from the E string to the A string at the very moment you need it to sound the note, at exactly the time the pick is attacking the string (but early enough not to flub the note). Continue to hold down the notes you play on the A string until all 4 frets are being held down again, and move on up to the D string, one note at a time. It’s something to try for only 5 minutes (and really no more) at the beginning of your warm up and to forget about for the rest of your playing for that day. I couldn’t believe the difference in my technique and coordination after about 4 weeks of doing this daily! Pretty incredible exercise.

Playing Guitar 11/20/2006

Tuesday, November 21st, 2006

Rented the Brent Mason video from Netflix the other night and watched it. Good video. Brent’s a killer player, so this is chock-full-0′ great chicken picken’ guitar licks/ideas. However, he doesn’t really slow the licks down. So the video leaves it up to you to slow them down or learn them from the sheet music (not provided by Netflix). One thing I got out of the video was that he uses a thumb pick, which effectively gives him back the index finger someone like me loses by using a pick (because both my thumb and index are occupied with the task of holding the pick). Seems like a great thing to have the attack and feel of a pick, but to be able to use all 5 fingers to play. So I bought a couple of thumb picks (Dunlop M) from a local music shop. I placed it on my thumb for the drive home just to get a sense of what it feels like to have one on. What I didn’t like about it was the feeling of my thumb being constricted. Perhaps these picks are too small for my thumb (which isn’t a big thumb by any stretch). I understand it should be very snug to allow you inflexibility if you need it without the pick falling off or getting loose. But it felt pretty foreign. Trying to play with it on was kind of interesting. In some ways it was easier than I thought it would be to play some thing (travis style picking), but then using it for the type of picking I’m accustomed to on single note lines wasn’t very smooth. I could tell it would take a reworking of my approach to picking in general. I’m not sure if I’m up for that task. Anyway…

I was pretty psyched to see that Amazon actually quickly shipped two recent purchases I’d made and they were waiting for me when I got home. One was the book “Effortless Mastery – Lubricating the master musician within” and the other was the Johnny Hiland “Chicken Pickin'” instructional video, that for some reason I thought was a new video but rather turned out to be his first video and was filmed in the early 90s (I think). He has another one out about bluegrass guitar. So I got right on watching the Hiland video which is pretty cool. He’s definitely good at teaching b/c he’d show you a cool lick and then explain it and slow it down. I didn’t really work out any of the licks, but I plan to visit the video to scarf as much from it as I can. The video also features some great performances by Johnny with Arlen Roth sitting in (Arlen’s got some great tone!).