Category: Rhythm Nation Archives - Jim Bowley

February 9, 2015

Clean Up Those Dirty Power Chords, Part 1: High String Noise

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…)

August 11, 2014

The Obstacle Course Approach to Changing Chords

obstacle course approach to changing chordsStrumming and changing chords is at the heart of all guitar playing.  And experienced players make it look so easy. 

But changing chords in rhythm is one of the most difficult things for beginner guitarists to do.

After all, there are multiple “moving parts” in every chord change. Fingers move in various combinations with different strings and different placements to figure out. The thumb changes its position. The wrist relaxes or bends.

It’s easy to see why a rookie guitar player would struggle with this: there’s an awful lot to process! 

And we’re only talking about the left hand. :)

While I employ a few different strategies for helping my beginners through the technical difficulties of playing chords, one of the simplest methods to deal with chord changes is more a matter of attitude than technical ability. (more…)

July 15, 2014

Money Guitar Tip #8: “Flicking Water”

One of my favorite verbal cues for strumming the guitar is based on a simple task that we perform every day: we wash our hands.

And what do we do automatically after washing our hands?

We flick the excess water off.

That, my friends, is perfect strumming technique.

“Flicking water” is a highly effective cue that will help you stay loose and relaxed while getting your strum on.

How great – and easy – is that? (more…)

April 16, 2014

Power Moves with Power Chords

If you wanna rock, the mighty power chord is one of the first things you need to learn.

But although power chords are usually considered beginner (read: easy) shapes, things can get a little dicey when you need to move them quickly from side to side.

These lateral shifts are very common in the rock repertoire, so it’s a technique that’s definitely worth studying and developing. Here’s just a short list of songs that require fast and accurate power chord moves:

“Iron Man” by Black Sabbath
“Layla” by Derek and the Dominoes
“You Really Got Me” by Van Halen
“Seven Nation Army” by White Stripes
“Enter Sandman” by Metallica
“Vertigo” by U2

Why do we so easily seem to lose our positioning, miss the frets and generally get jammed up with these simple shifts? (more…)

May 25, 2013

“Hop and Drop”: Use Common Shapes for Easier Chord Changes

chord changes hop and drop

Beginner guitarists face a major hurdle trying to make smooth and comfortable chord changes.

To that end, I’ve developed a few helpful “common” strategies that are outlined in this epic lesson. The first two strategies – common finger and common string – are often easiest to apply. The third strategy, however, usually presents a few coordination issues.

But learning to use the common shape strategy will make life much easier for your average guitar rookie. In a nutshell, we want to recognize the fingers that are configured – or “shaped” – the same way between two chords and maintain that shape as we switch.

[Note: Although I’m presenting this as a beginner lesson, it’s actually a foundation concept that is practiced across all skill levels. (more…)

September 27, 2012

The Definitive Lesson: Chord Changing Strategies, Part 1

Jack Black in "School of Rock"

I spent a few years teaching the Monday night Guitar I class at Harford Community College here in Maryland.

It was fun, I met a lot of great people – some of whom are still my students to this day – and I learned a ton about what works and what doesn’t work for absolute guitar newbies.

Without a doubt, the most common question was…

“OMG, why is this sooooooo stinkin’ hard to do???”

I, of course, translated this to mean: “How do I change chords more quickly and accurately, Mr. Schneebly?”

Luckily for my Monday night School-of-Rockers, I had the answers. (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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