A young man named Brian Gatheru recently found me online and wanted to ask some questions about guitar for a school research project. The interview focused on my beginnings as a guitarist, the learning process, the timeline involved, and continuing education.
As I answered his questions, I had a nice little trip down memory lane to when I began and what my life – my “Six String Life“, as I like to call it – has been like since I decided to devote myself to this great instrument.
I’ve posted the questions and answers below for your reading pleasure. If you’ve got some playing experience, you may see yourself in some of my answers. If you’re relatively new to guitar studies, then maybe my answers will give you some perspective or even something to shoot for. (more…)
Welcome to the latest installment of Songs From the Guitar Studio!
This series is dedicated to songs my students have played in guitar lessons. Sometimes we’ll pick a technique or concept and find a song to match it. At other times, we’ll pick a song first and see what we can learn from it.
Listed below are just a few of the songs we’ve jammed to over the last few weeks and months. I’ve tried to make the list diverse, featuring various concepts and techniques. As always, I’ve outlined a few of the main elements and takeaway points from each song.
Hopefully you’ll see something here to inspire you! (more…)
I’ve been a lover of blues and blues-based music for as long as I can remember.
The recent passing of the legendary B.B. King – one of my greatest musical influences, by a long shot – inspired me to go back (“way down an alley” as B.B. liked to say in Live at the Regal) and revisit the blues recordings that shaped me as a guitarist.
To this day, some 30 years later, I quote licks and ideas that I learned while sitting at my record player and painstakingly transcribing what I could discern from that spinning vinyl. And I continue to teach them to my lead guitar students, so that, by extension, they will be shaped by this great material as well.
My essential blues recordings are listed in no particular order and I’ve added a few “quick takes” on each one – personal highlights, fun trivia, and a link for listening. Of course there are lots of great blues tracks that I’ve left out, so please feel free to add your faves in the comments section. (more…)
Power chords are the sound of rock.
As such, they are typically played with a heaping helping o’ distortion. Guitar veterans call that sound “dirty”.
But just because the chords don’t sound clean, doesn’t mean we can’t play them clean.
Of course, by “clean”, I mean not slopped up with unwanted noise. We want the distortion without the extra squeaks, squawks and out-of-tune notes.
Make no mistake, rockers – that beautiful distortion will bring our every technique flaw front and center. So it pays to use the best technique possible.
If you’re having trouble making your power chords behave, then you’ve come to the right lesson. Armed with some simple muting techniques you can get ’em tight and get ’em right. (more…)
Fingerstyle guitar – or fingerpicking – is an essential part of the guitarist’s repertoire.
After my students develop a solid right hand setup and technique, I introduce them to what is arguably the most common fingerpicking style in popular music: Travis picking.
Named after the legendary country guitarist, Merle Travis, Travis picking is a pattern-oriented style of fingerpicking that can be heard in songs like “The Boxer” by Simon and Garfunkel (and later Mumford and Sons), “Landslide” and “Never Going Back Again” by Fleetwood Mac, “Dust in the Wind” by Kansas, and “Little Black Submarines” by The Black Keys.
Because of the “looped” nature of the picking pattern, the Travis style creates a beautiful bed of sound over which to sing or play a melody. For this reason, it is often used to accompany a singer, (more…)
Happy New Year to all my guitar ninjaz out there!
The first guitar lessons of a new year always find me asking my students what their goals will be in the upcoming months. It’s nice to feel freshly inspired and to get our minds right in January.
Some of their goals will be stylistic (“I’d like to learn how to play blues better”), some will be technical (“I need some serious practice on my string bends”) and most will be repertoire (“This year I’m gonna learn the entire Led Zeppelin catalog note for note”).
Those three things are “big ticket items” to me; you can never go wrong with this approach and you’ll get lots of bang for your musical buck here. But there are a number of other, less obvious, things that you can resolve to learn as well.
With that in mind, I’ve put together a list of ideas to get you started – a dozen big and small ticket items, if you will. It’s a grab bag of stuff to inspire you and give you some clear direction in the months to come. (more…)