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…)

March 23, 2014

Mix Things Up and Boost Your Soloing Power

There are few moments in our six-string lives more exhilarating than busting out a few lead guitar phrases that actually sound like, well, lead guitar.

Unfortunately, that is often more fantasy than reality.

Lots of guitarists are still stuck in that decidedly mediocre area I like to call the “noodle zone” – the place where you wander aimlessly through the scale patterns, noodling with the notes and hoping for something cool to happen.

We’ve all been there.

But nothing cool is happening in the noodle zone because there is no real guideline, no basic plan of attack.

Great lead guitarists play solos that contain an active and deliberate mix of elements, (more…)

March 4, 2014

How to Play the Dreaded F Chord, Part 2

Welcome to Part 2 of our lesson on playing the dreaded F chord!

In Part 1, we found a good substitute for F, just to get us going in the right direction. That substitute was Fmaj7 and we knew all along that we were going to replace it with a proper F.

After all, when so many songs call for an F chord, and you can’t play it cleanly – or at all – then you have to substitute something so you can make it through the song, right?

We also took a look at expanding our fingering of that Fmaj7 so that it more closely resembles our final F chord product. By adding in finger 4 we not only thicken up the sound of the chord but also prep ourselves for moving into the full barre chord shape.

In this lesson, we’ll abandon our F chord substitutes and get down to the real deal. Pack a lunch, kids – we’re going in! (more…)

February 15, 2014

The Definitive Lesson: Pick-style Arpeggios

Playing fingerstyle arpeggios seems to be fairly intuitive for most players.

On the other hand, playing arpeggios with a pick is one of the techniques that is absolutely abused by guitar students.

I think it’s because pick-style arpeggios offer too many possibilities.

Since they can be handled in various ways, an educated guitarist should have some sort of guideline for taking care of this common playing situation.

In this Definitive Lesson, we’ll put you on the path to arpeggio awesomeness by detailing the two main approaches for picking through these jingle-jangly lines! (more…)

February 2, 2014

Best Guitar Exercise, Part 2: Focus on Alternate Picking

If you’ve seen my lesson entitled The Best Guitar Exercise, Period, then you know that I am a big fan of keeping the technique drills simple but effective. I don’t need lots of exercises; I just need a few that do the job well.

A great guitar exercise can hit a number of important points at the same time, and the finger combinations found in the aforementioned lesson do just that. They primarily help to develop the following left hand qualities in any six-stringer:

– Dexterity
– Strength
– Finding the “sweet spot” on each fingertip
– Finger independence
– A legato line (or connected quality from note to note)

But many guitarists seem to think that playing technique starts and stops at left hand development. They will treat the right hand as an afterthought, often picking at notes with all downstrokes or in a haphazard manner. Frankly, we can do better.

To that end, I developed some exercises that get the right hand in on the action, synchronizing with the left and working as a team. (more…)

November 13, 2013

Songs From the Guitar Studio, Vol. 7

Welcome to the latest installment of Songs From the Guitar Studio!

It’s been a while since I’ve written one of these bad boys, but they’re always fun and they always seem to get a good response!

As you might remember from earlier volumes, 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…)

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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