Category: Gearin' Up Archives - Jim Bowley

October 7, 2015

The Art and Science of Guitar Pedal Order

I admit. I’m an unabashed lover of guitar pedals.

My live pedalboard may or may not be the size of the Starship Enterprise. <<<<< And I may or may not have somewhere in the vicinity of ten overdrives alone.

But just because I have a rampant pedal addiction doesn’t mean they aren’t awesome tools in our quest for ever-cooler sounds.

And honestly, how can you recreate some of those trippy effects you hear on recordings without a nice flanger? Or phaser. Or echo. Come to think of it, I could really use an octave pedal also…

Clearly it’s become a problem. :)

Having a nice supply of these little guys isn’t enough for sonic greatness, though. There are some basic tonal concepts and gear understandings that we must have to get the best out of our pedals. (more…)

October 15, 2012

Money Guitar Tip #3: Tuning With Capos

Capos are essential pieces of gear for helping you get that coveted open-chord sound up and down the fretboard.

But in learning how to use capos effectively, one thing that is often overlooked is how they affect the guitar’s tuning.

Remember that the amount of pressure your finger exerts on a string plays a part in keeping the notes in tune. Too much pressure and you’ll force the note to go sharp. You need enough firmness to make the note sound out, but no more.

A capo is used in place of your fingers, so the same idea applies to it. We want it to be just firm enough to make the notes sound out clearly. (more…)

October 8, 2012

Money Guitar Tip #2: Amazing Slow Downer

tip jar

If learning your favorite riffs and solos by ear seems like an impossible task, then you must try the Amazing Slow Downer!

I had been aware of the ASD in the past, but recently saw some rave reviews from other guitar instructors, so I figured I’d check it out. This coincided nicely with a bluegrass tune – read: wicked fast – that I’m currently working on. The real-time tempo was entirely too quick to cop all the cool licks by ear, so I purchased the product.

Amazing Slow Downer, where have you been all my life?

Here’s the scoop: You simply load a music file (like an iTunes track) into it and hit “Play”. Unlike products in the past, which would lower the pitch as it slowed the tempo, the ASD can slow to whichever speed you prefer and maintain the correct pitch.

You can do all sorts of other nifty things with it, like change the effects or the mix, loop sections, etc., but the variable speed selector is where it’s at. Learn a riff slowly (40-50% of original tempo), and then play along at increasing speeds until you’re up to the original tempo. Genius! (more…)

April 9, 2012

Power to the Pedals!

Visual Sound 1-Spot

Normally, when I refer to “power” with my guitarists, I’m talking about feeling empowered as a player – the idea that you can execute whatever is required of you on the fingerboard. This power comes from dedicated study and ongoing, productive practice.

There’s another kind of power that guitarists need, too. It comes from electricity.

Here’s a recent message from a student:

“Yo, JB!

I bought some new guitar pedals for myself and was wondering if you could share some tips on powering them up. What are my options? Do people still use batteries? Help!”

This desperate cry for AC and DC prompted me to put together a basic guide to powering your pedals. Perhaps you too have some pedals and would like to know your powering options.

Note: Malcolm and Angus Young of AC/DC are famous for not using guitar pedals. Ironic, huh?

I want to be clear about one thing, though: I’m giving you some tips based on my own personal experience. I don’t pretend to know all of the options available in the stores; I know what has worked – and continues to work – for me. Let’s power up, people! (more…)

November 10, 2011

Capo Basics

by jim — Categories: Beginner, Gearin' Up — Tags: , , , 3 Comments

Don Felder playing Hotel California

What do classic songs like “Hotel California”, “Here Comes the Sun”, “Fire and Rain”, and “Landslide” have in common?

How about modern pop tunes like “If I Die Young”, “I’m Yours”, and “Hey Soul Sister”?

Answer: They all require a capo for maximum musical mojo!

If you’re not using a capo, then you’re doing your guitar playing a major disservice. The modern guitarist needs to learn to use a capo effectively since so many songs either benefit from it or require it to sound their best.

This easy lesson will answer all of your basic questions, including types of capos, positioning, the “moveable nut” concept, and more.

Let’s get this party started with a trip through Capo Basics! (more…)

June 7, 2011

Be the Pick


“Be the ball.”

Ty Webb knew a thing or two about golf. His sage advice to Danny Noonan in Caddyshack has stood the test of time.

Ty understood that in order to be a great golfer, you have to engage the forces of the universe, relax, and let things happen.

As it turns out, the same thing happens in guitar. Sort of.

Just as golf begins with the strike of the ball, guitar playing begins with the strike of the pick to the string. So the type of pick you choose, the way you grip it, and the way you attack the strings with it are critical to your success. 

You must “be the pick”. (more…)

Jim Bowley is a professional guitarist, teacher and blogger. A native of Baltimore, he has over 30 years of playing experience and an advanced degree in Music Education from Towson University. Jim lives in Bel Air, MD where he maintains a thriving private lesson studio and performs with his band, Remains of Radio.

© 2012 Jim Bowley All rights reserved.
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