Category: Technique Spotlight 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…)

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…)

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…)

October 1, 2014

Guitar Exercises for the Real World: String Skipping

If my website statistics are correct, people are on a constant search for guitar exercises to improve their playing technique.

The only problem, as I see it, is that many guitar exercises are way too complicated. They challenge you as much on your ability to mentally comprehend the exercise as they do on playing it.

Complex coordination exercises are certainly good, but they’re probably best suited to those players who deal with highly technical music. On the other hand, your average, everyday guitar hero will flourish with “meat and potatoes” exercises that meet the requirements of mainstream musical styles, like pop, rock, blues, country, and fingerstyle.

So in this series, Guitar Exercises for the Real World, I’m going to present some highly-applicable, totally-useful drills that I’ve derived from actual song material. (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…)

June 24, 2014

The Golden Rules of Bending Strings

Bending strings is one of the most unique and awesome things about playing guitar.

Other instrumentalists may try, but guitar players are legit note-benders. We can bend a note a little or a lot or anywhere in between!

However, with great musical power comes great responsibility, so we six-stringers are responsible for making our bends as excellent as possible.

The only problem is, bending strings is hard work. And many players simply never learn the guitar technique to get ‘er done the right way.

If you’ve been frustrated with bends that are weak, shaky and out of tune, then this lesson is just what the guitar doctor ordered!

Armed with three main technique principles – I call ’em The Golden Rules of Bending – you can be confident that your bends will be strong, controlled and accurate. (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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