Category: Intermediate Archives - Jim Bowley

March 16, 2016

Songs From the Guitar Studio, Vol. 8

David Bowie songsWelcome 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…)

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…)

June 30, 2015

My Essential Blues Guitar Recordings

Essential Blues Guitar RecordingsI’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…)

January 26, 2015

Travis Picking 101

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…)

January 11, 2015

Guitar Goals for a New Year (2015 Edition)

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…)

December 9, 2014

Money Guitar Tip #10: The 2nd Finger Crossover

Today I want to spread the word about one of my favorite lead guitar moves.

I call it the “2nd Finger Crossover”.

Of course, I can’t say that’s a legit, Google-searchable term; I made the name up when working with my students.

But whatever you choose to call it, it will make your playing more efficient, more fluid and just a little more awesome.

The 2nd Finger Crossover works especially well in rock and blues pentatonic patterns, and you can also use it to add a little flash to your lead chops. After all, if it’s good enough for Eric Clapton, Jimmy Page and scores of other rock icons, it should be good enough for me and you too. Highly recommended! (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.

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