Tuesday, December 18, 2012

No More Tears solo w/Tabs

No More Tears was really the guitar world's introduction to the maniacal, shred crazy Zakk Wylde. He is a monster shredder who, in the Eric Johnson mold, does it primarily with the good ole-fashioned pentatonic scale (and a plethora of pick harmonics!). This song and solo helped cement him the role as Ozzy's sideman, desperately needed in the years following the tragic passing of the one and only Randy Rhoads. Although nobody can ultimately fill those shoes, this song helped move Ozzy's music into the consciousness of a younger generation.

This solo is a pretty classic blues really... There is a LOT of swapping out of the major and minor third as Zakk weaves the tonality between these two. This is common in blues. The solo is mostly D minor pentatonic, with the added b5 (making it a Dmin Blues scale) licks and double stops. He ends the solo with repeating groups of 6, moving up the different forms of the pentatonic scale. Until the last bar - where he simply (harmonically that is!) follows the background chords with Bb Major arpeggio - moving to a CMajor arpeggio. Then the money resolution - bending up to hit the tonic note (D) on the closing chord. It's pretty fast and my picking hand struggled to maintain the closing 4 bars.

Getting the sound
Les Paul loaded with Humbuckers - through a Marshall. The real key though is in double tracking the recording takes. 

The files
Here is the TAB sheet for your downloading pleasure.

Friday, December 7, 2012

Practice routine development - Stay focused

Lots of guitarist seek to develop a practice routine that will take their playing to another level. No matter what that level, there is a common mistake to overwhelm oneself with too many technical drills. Now technical drills SHOULD play some role in your practice time... But what amount is the right amount? Well, one thing to me is abundantly clear: What you practice comes out when you perform. SO if you are always running scales etc - what do you think your improvs will sound like? ... so if that is true then how would one make their playing more creative and musical? (hint: maybe by practicing creativity and musicality more)

Before I say this let me say - these amounts change depending on your current place on the curve. This is to provide you a basic guideline or food for thought.

This would be my breakdown:
  • Technical drills 5% - including scales, keys etc (ALWAYS to a click of some kind)
  • Expanding your Chord Vocabulary 5% (ALWAYS to a click of some kind)
  • 20% spontaneous composition (ALWAYS to a click of some kind)
  • 20% planned composition (ALWAYS to a click of some kind)
  • 50% ear work - learning entire albums - NO TAB ... EVER. 

Away from the guitar:
  • Song analysis - write out the album songs you figured out and figure out , the key, time signature, the chords (break them into a I, IV, V - type numeric system), the scales, look at the solos and find the chord tones used.
  • Read Theory books, also practice sight reading without the guitar. Tap the rhythms, imagine your fingers playing the notes.
  • Read musician biographies looking for the little pearls of wisdom buried inside their words
  • Explore new genres of music - ALWAYS seek out new music.

Three things make a great musician to me
1. Imagination
2. Sense of Rhythm
3. Ear

With these 3 things everything else falls into place. So make sure whatever routine you do it addresses these areas.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Merry Christmas to you all!

All the best to you and yours this holiday season! In the spirit of that here is my feature track from this years Figgy Pudding Vol.3 album. The Vince Guaraldi Trio classic "Christmas Time is Here" performed and arranged by yours truly. Perhaps if you have been a good boy or girl all year, a certain elf will slip a vintage Les Paul under the tree .... or not : )

No matter your beliefs I truly wish you all well.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Reelin in the Years solo w/tabs

Here is the classic solo from the truly wonderful "Reelin in the Years" Steely Dan as played by Elliot Randall. Steely Dan was/is known for their use of jazz musicians to weave their blend of jazz/pop/rock. Any band looking to play some of their tunes should get ready for some seriously heavy heavy harmonic twists and turns. Some of the top jazz players in the world have played with the band over the years and Mr Randall is no exception.

This solo is over a G5/G6/G7 standard blues shuffle modulating to A5/A6/A7. The opening note accents the major 7th over G (F#) before hitting the A on the chord change and stepping down ending on the 5th (E). Then into a phrase focusing on the 3rds of both chords as they change. Up next a little walk up through the Amin blues scale, ending on the G root nailing the change. The solo concludes with another walk up from a different starting note through the Amin blues scale... BUT this time it is played over the G chord - which changes the tonality of the G accompaniment to the role of the dominant b7. The solos concludes on the 'money' resolution (a.k.a. the root) of the A chord. Beautiful working example of a soloist who is soloing IN the chords not OVER. He adds some chromaticisms to enhance the jazz sound, but aside from that this is some textbook stuff harmonically speaking.

Getting the sound
I really did not get the sound... but it is a semi hollow-body guitar, through a fuzz pedal, into what sounds to me like a twin style amp. It's very present and in your face with little reverb. 

The files
Here is the TAB sheet for your downloading pleasure.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Goodbye to Romance solo w/tabs

Anyone who reads this blog knows Randy Rhoads is definitely one of my main sources of inspiration. I think the world of this guy's playing and am deeply saddened we didn't get more from him. I know I am not alone in this. For all you intermediate level players, this solo is a nice starting point for his style as most of it is pretty manageable but VERY musical.

This solo moves through a pretty diatonic D Major progression. During the important 'drama' notes, Randy is nailing chord tones - almost always. Typically one of the notes of the major triad - (root- D, 3rd -F# or 5th - A). 

(BTW - by now some of you readers should be recognizing that I say "hits chord tones" in my analysis of these solos a LOT. We're I a smart youngin' I would make chord tone soloing a regular part of my practice routine)

During the fast line in bar 3 - some of this is pretty obliterated as Randy liked to double and triple his solos. This gives his sound that pseudo chorus-y effect and ultra wide spread. Very cool, but tough to discern clearly when lifting his stuff. He loved to move up the neck as he does in this bar of this solo. So if you want to grab Randy's approach to transition lines moving up the neck, this run is a pretty great working example.

Getting the sound
Les Paul loaded with Humbuckers - through a Marshall. I used a Strat, I really should have grabbed the Paul. The real key though is in double tracking the recording takes. 

The files
Here is the TAB sheet for your downloading pleasure.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

You Shook Me All Night Long solo w/tabs

Angus Young is one of the most ferocious rock/blues player to ever lift the instrument. He's been part of our culture for so long now that people tend to take the calibre his playing for granted. Every note is attacked and drenched with vibrato, scrapes, bends & general head smashing. Playing the notes is one part.. Playing the intensity is where the SOUND lives. I always say when I hear people suggesting Angus is simply and OK player, that if he was playing in a room with just you and his amp, he would blow your doors off. If he isn't an excellent player then I truly don't know who is.

This solo is mostly straight up G minor pentatonic stuff. Near the end of the solo Angus temporarily hints at a G Major tonality... although it could be analyzed as a little dash of Dorian .. to me it feels more major. It definitely has the signature uplifting feel of the Major tonality.

Getting the sound

Not much to this! Guitar > SG with humbucking pickups - to cable - to Marshall amp. No pedals, no muss no fuss.

The files
Here is the TAB sheet for your downloading pleasure.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Guitar Chords and Scales - The Bigger picture

I came across a really great video of the same title demonstrating the link between chords and scales. Very nicely put together and great insights.

Friday, September 28, 2012

Steve Vai - On Success

Being a beautiful sunny Friday and all, I thought it would be a good time to post one of my favourite all-time videos. I first discovered this gem a while back and stumbled across it this morning.

The advice contained within, is spot on and VERY inspirational to me. Whether you dig Steve's music or not, nobody can deny the talent he possesses. Unique and one of the few originals in the genre of shred guitar.

It must be remembered, that over the years many players have borrowed large elements from his very recognizable style... In fact his approach almost became a caricature of "the shredder" during the "anti-talent"* grunge-heavy 90's.  If you came online during this era, don't let this mindset damage your thoughts on Steve. He is an innovator. A ton of less talented rock players of that day, were "borrowing" pretty heavily from Steve. Many players "borrow" ... but few go on to carry those ideas further.

Steve has remained faithful to his creative vision over the years, taking his music to very experimental places. Something I admire him for greatly. I suspect an attitude that rubbed off from his time with the late great Mr Frank Zappa. Having the courage to try is the thing. Any band or player who does this, hit or miss, I am a fan.

Have a great weekend all!

*"Anti-talent" meaning: During the 90's the grunge era came to the forefront with many of the youth. Virtuosity and "guitar Gods" became "cheesy" to many fans of this era. They wanted anything that was NOT obvious "ROCK" talent. No more guitar solos, or drum solos, or light shows, More DIY, Garage band sound, simple chords and progressions with LOTS of attitude was that thing. Similar to the punk movement of the decade previous.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Pride and Joy solo w/tabs

Well here is a classically cooking solo by the late great Stevie Ray Vaughan. From one of his best known songs "Pride and Joy" from the "texas Flood" album. The tough thing with anything Stevie is nailing two things:

  • The swing - his pocket (rhythm) is absolutely amazing. Spot on DEEP in the groove ALWAYS.
  • The intensity - he absolutely smashes his way through the notes giving them a ferocious feel. Really tough to maintain.
I only barely hung with both of these things, so make sure you check the original recording. If you can nail these elements, your blues will be forever changed.

There is not a ton going on here that isn't fairly predictable. E minor pentatonic over a I, IV, V blues in  E  (E7, A7, B7). He starts out with some dyads with an Emin7 to Emin interplay. Then into a fairly classic (but tricky) Emin pentatonic riff. Throughout this solo Stevie rolls over the major 3rd of E (G#) to give it a major feel once in a while. Again, pretty classic blues moves. He also always hits the turnaround at B7... I have noticed Stevie seldom plays over the V chord in most of his solos. He mostly states the chord.

Getting the sound

Pure Fender Strat. Neck pickup, heavy gauge strings. Eb (ish) tuning. Twin style amp using an Ibanez Tube Screamer. Roll down your volume to 7ish on the guitar to clean it up a hair.

The files
Here is the TAB sheet for your downloading pleasure.

This comes from my YouTube channel which has a number of these types of solos so check it out:

Thursday, September 20, 2012

November Rain solo w/TABs

Here is Slash's beautifully melodic solo from Guns N' Roses' ballad "November Rain". The tricky part to this is really nailing the bends. They are many!

This solo is pretty much pure diatonic. Key of C Major ... using notes from C Major. It is also another example of chord tone soloing as he is hitting the passing chords all over the place. He starts by hitting the 3rd of the F chord (A) - as the chord changes the A becomes the 5th of the Dminor. As the chord changes to C he once again hits the 3rd - a sound heard all over this solo. He then plays with some suspensions (4ths) only to resolve to the root. In the second solo he begins with a Gmajor scale ascending... may seem odd until you realize the chord he is over - yup! G Major. This is pretty much the recipe for the entire solo... So take a second and figure out how the notes he plays relate to the chord. The act of examine it may open your eyes.

Getting the sound
Les Paul through a Marshall... pretty much nothing to it. Neck pickup for the first solo to get that 'woman tone' thing. Then switch to the bridge for the second solo.

The files
Here is the TAB sheet for your downloading pleasure.

This comes from my YouTube channel which has a number of these types of solos so check it out:


Friday, September 14, 2012

Wayne Krantz - Playing by ear

Happy Friday all.

I came across this great article by one of my Favs - Wayne Krantz. Very much agree with Wayne on this and have had similar observations. Enjoy!


Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Crazy Train solo w/tab

Here is the insanely cool solo to Crazy Train as played by Randy Rhoads during his all too short time with Ozzy. Being a HUGE fan of both Ozzy and in particular Randy Rhoads this solo was a pleasure to do.

This is a solo that I learned a LOONG time ago… but also one that I never likely played quite right as I lifted it at 15 or 16 years of age. So it was fun to try to get it right. Randy was a HUGE influence on me and continues to be to this day. In my darkest times as a player I regularly listen to those two Ozzy albums (Blizzard of Ozz and Diary of a Madman) for inspiration. I hope I did his solo justice.

The first line of this solo is a straight up F#min triad - but played as a tapped line. The tapping hand moves up one fret changing it to a D Major triad. But this time Randy switches it up to his signature tapped group of fives as opposed to the typical triplet feel (to give his some distance from copying Eddie Van Halen I suspect). A little trilled line of an Emaj for and the end which bends back up to (you guessed it) F#min. Randy typically favoured the sound of Natural minor (Aeolian) over a minor chord as opposed to many players of his and this day who opt for Dorian. This is very predominant in giving him his much more classical sound. He regularly used classical devices such as a trill (which this solo is FULL of). The solo ends with a blistering F#minor scale ending strongly on the high E note… The rhythm part here ends on an E chord - giving this a very strong resolution.

Getting the sound
I didn't really nail Randy's tone here… But he liked Double coil guitars through Marshall full stack LOADED with gain. He also had a WAH pedal always left on type of tone with that strong midrange honk. He liked MXR pedals as well but his pedal board was pretty sparse. His tone was (as all players) in his hands. See his rig here

The files
Here is the TAB sheet for your downloading pleasure.

This comes from my YouTube channel which has a number of these types of solos so check it out:


Thursday, September 6, 2012

Fade to Black solo w/TAB

One of the earliest solos that I longed to play as a teenager was the beautiful intro to Metallica's "Fade to Black" as played by Kirk Hammett. The haunting melody and liquid feel has captured the imagination of more than just me as it continues to be one of the most learned solos of all time.

Kirk Hammett is a very diatonic player. He very seldom leaves the key or scale of a song and this is the case... for most of this intro. He plays dead inside B minor (Aeolian) for the entire solo. Then he inexplicably (to me at least) ends on an A minor ascending scale. The odd thing is that there is an G# in the accompaniment? An odd choice for sure, but in the words of the immortal Eddie Van Halen "if it sounds good - it IS good". I believe this applies.

Getting the sound
I am afraid I didn't manage to get the sound… mine sounds too nice : ) Kirk has a very brittle gain setting and a bordering on nasal tone on this one. Possibly due to microphone placement during recording. Deepish reverb to give it some distance, long tail delay at a very low setting and you are there.

The files
Here is the TAB sheet for your downloading pleasure.

This comes from my YouTube channel which has a number of these types of solos so check it out:


Stairway to Heaven solo w/TABs

The solo to "Stairway to Heaven"  by Led Zeppelin is commonly ranked near the very top of all time on any of the "Top 100 solos" type lists you will see. Often ranked in first. With pretty good reason too. It is an absolute beautiful piece, built almost solidly around the A minor Pentatonic scale. But, if you look deeper, you will discover that Jimmy Page is nailing chord tones throughout. Which creates that wonderfully melodic sound.

This comes from my YouTube channel which has a number of these types of solos so check it out:


This solo is essentially made up of an A minor pentatonic scale … But if you look closer you will see that in the very first line he wraps it up on the note F. Seems odd until you examine the backing which is Amin, G, and two bars of (you guessed it) F. Actually if you take a minute (hint hint) and examine some of the other notes involved you will see that Jimmy frequently outlines these chords. Again - awareness of the backing is critical.

Getting the sound
This is fairly classic Les Paul with a fuzz tone as opposed to distortion. Some nice spring reverb as well. The other thing is in your hands. Jimmy's timing is very cool and laid back. He plays a hair behind the beat almost at all times. So as you are playing relax a bit and breath. Let the notes drag out a bit and all of a sudden you will feel where he lives. Very cool.

The files
Here is the TAB sheet for your downloading pleasure.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Chord tone soloing - an exercise

One of the hardest things with learning to hit chord tones while soloing, is trying to do the mental multitasking it requires. At first, keeping track of which chord comes next in your mind - while you "relax" and solo - feels damn near impossible.... But it really isn't. It just is for you right now!

Do you remember the first time you rode a bicycle? You likely wobbled down the street, eventually gaining stability, then you get it BOOM! Before long, its tough to remember why you struggled with this in the first place. The same holds true of learning anything new. It takes a bit of doing but once your mind latches on, these tasks become almost second nature.

One of the hurdles we have to overcome in this day and age is there seems to be a real tangible fear of doing anything badly. Which is nonsense. Let me help liberate you on this - EVERYBODY who is good at anything, once sucked at it. Embrace sucking, learn to laugh at it, expect it. Because it is part of the road. A BIG part of it.

OK, so how do we get there then?

Leverage what you know
A great exercise to begin with is take a song that you know really well. Preferably a campfire style chord strummer and make sure you know the chord changes inside and out and can say them out loud. Now, pick an area on the neck and learn the arpeggios of these chords in this position. Play the song, but instead of strumming the chords, simply walk through the arpeggios, playing each chord change as a single note line.

IMPORTANT - Turn on a metronome, or tap your foot - something, ANYTHING giving you time. Force yourself to really nail the change on the click. The click is important to the process because it makes you accountable. You can't fudge this, either you are on it or you are NOT.

Once you are good with that now begin to improvise melodies using ONLY chord tones. At this stage, your only allowed pool of notes over each chord are the ones in the chords themselves. Try to create motifs and alter them accordingly as the change happens.

Once you have this DOWN in this one area of the neck, do the same thing in another area. Do not move forward until you have each area really owned. THEN and only THEN combine the areas - eventually spanning the whole neck.

Sounds kind of drab? How do we spice it up?
Turn each of the chords into scales... So if you are playing over a minor chord, use its minor scale (preferably Dorian!) using the arpeggio as its skeleton - these are your strongest resolve points. Same process if you are playing over a Major chord - use it's major scale.

Now do the same drill, but this time change the entire scale ON the chord change. Try to hit one of the chord tones of the new chord in your melody with each new change. The key here is developing awareness of the impending change. It forces you to do some pre-planning as you play, which is EXACTLY the exercise here.

Man, I sucked at that!
Yes you did! And you will for a bit. But that's OK. As I said above, learn to expect and embrace being bad. Notice the minute improvements as you go along. These are small victories. The reaching of these micro goals are steps toward reaching the macro goal of owning this technique. So be proud of each one you hit. How your think of your progress is a big part of succeeding.

Moving on
Now, try this approach with other songs you know really well first.

I should say that an immense help to this process is something that will generate a loop for you to play over. Using a looper pedal is a massive help. In my opinion, every guitarist should own one of these pedals. There are also software packages like "Band-in-a-Box" where you can input a chord change and it will generate the accompaniment for you. There are also some inexpensive iPhone based apps like ChordBot which do the same type of thing. I would highly recommend researching and purchasing something like this.

With some hardware or software at your disposal, the next steps would be to input some random chords. Diatonic - or of the key - first, eventually moving to completely unrelated or non-diatonic chords. Remember the chords can be anything really as the exercise here is doing the mental multi-tasking of getting ready for the change, knowing when it is and getting to the nearest chord tone in a musical way.

Jazz it up
Another fun thing to do is to get a jazz fake book. Open it up to a song with some chords you feel OK with and work with these changes. This is really helpful as it will also help develop your chord chops. Inevitably there will be some chords in there that you don't know well. Which forces you to learn not only it, but it's arpeggio as well, in more than one area of the neck.

The main thing with anything you do is to have fun with it. So get creative. If it's not fun then make it so or simply dump it and move on. If you do a little bit of this each day it will oneday click. Once you get good at this it can be really fun and addictive. It becomes a little mental puzzle for you to work through. When you go back to playing the one-key based structure that most popular music follows you will be surprised how easy it is. Soon you begin to HEAR the changes... no thinking required. This is when the real music begins to happen. Before long - like your bicycle - you will wonder why you weren't able to do this all along.

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Runnin with the Devil solo w/TABs

Here is the solo to Van Halen's absolutely killin "Runnin with the Devil". It is one of Eddie Van Halen's most recognizable solos but it remains (unlike his others) fairly accessible for intermediate players. It is also a great working example of chord tone soloing and how a total awareness of the backing chords is critical to playing well.

Here also is my YouTube channel address:


This solo is essentially made up of an Amajor triad moving to a G Major triad. He even bends up to hit the final Emin in the backing. Chord tone soloing at its best.

Getting the sound
Loud amp, add some flanger to get that Eddie Van Halen signature sizzle. Touch of reverb and high output humbuckers in your guitar.

The files
Here is the TAB sheet for your downloading pleasure.

Friday, August 31, 2012

Whole Lotta Love solo w/TABs

Well, here we go again. I did another video, this time featuring Zeppelin's "Whole Lotta Love".

The way I did the first upload of "Comfortably Numb" turned out to be a bit of a mess. So I created a new YouTube Channel for this and future episodes. So if you subscribed to the last one, please change that to this one instead. Here is the channel address:


This solo is straight up Emin pentatonic over shots of Emin. Not really a ton to analyze but some great licks and the second pull off line is a burner. Love the Page attitude all over this solo.

Getting the sound
it is more Fuzz pedal than distortion, also the wah pedal is left on to give it that nasal honk. Experiment with the treadle to find the sweet spot where the shrillness ends. Add a hair of spring reverb and preferably a Les Paul or humbucking style guitar and have at er!

The files
Here is the TAB sheet for your downloading pleasure.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Comfortably Numb guitar solos w/tab

Well I have officially begun my foray into online video production. Yaaay! My plan is to create a series of these videos titled "going note for note". This series will feature various famous guitar solos, in an up-close and personal manner. Helping you learn some of these classic solos and therefore improve your own playing.

This solo is also a GREAT example of the power of chord tone soloing. As David Gilmour really hits all the changes. Read this post that breaks down this approach.

Some technical issues with this one:

  • First, the lighting wasn't the greatest, which degraded the general video quality.
  • Second, the original sound of the performed take was pretty much unusable… so I recorded the sound separately then did a merge. So there are some pretty minute discrepancies.
  • Third, my scanner sucks!

These issues will be rectified in future, but I didn't have time to fix it on this one. Hopefully they don't detract too much from the piece. This is really a 'testing the waters' thing, so if it is well received then I will work to improve the process.


P.S. Here are the tabs for your downloading pleasure

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Should I get a teacher? Or learn online?

The process of learning guitar IMO can be best described by the phrase "Leave no stone unturned". So to answer the title of this post I would say you should do both...  ALL. But having said that let me point out some merits of having a teacher.

Here are the conditions where I feel one NEEDS a face-to-face teacher... or at very least the presence of one can greatly affect the time it takes.

  1. Anything that comes with a LOT of questions/confusion (i.e. theory).
    Sure you can learn theory online - but it can take YEARS instead of months. (See below for an expansion on this)
  2. When you have a technical issue(s) and need some technique adjustment.
  3. When you are a person who needs to have someone you are accountable to. Some don't need this, others very much.
  4. When you are a visual learner. NOTHING beats sitting in the room and watching someone play.
  5. When you feel stuck in a rut and really need some new input to bust out of it.
    I would recommend you go to some local shows and see some local players. When you see one that moves you ask him/her for a lesson. Stay with them until you find out their "stuff" then move on ... or stay whatever.

I will say this, one of my biggest regrets as a player was that I was never able to find my mentor... That person... Sure I took lessons, but never for very long. There is a HUGE value in the inspiration that can come from sitting with a great player. For example, during any lesson I get with Oz Noy, it is incredibly humbling and inspirational to be 'put in my place' so to speak. Also I can chat with him about little theories or observations I have. Nothing is better than having a great player CONFIRM something you always suspected.

Finding the RIGHT teacher is HARD... but imo it is worth every minute of the search. If I could do it all over again I would spend much more efforts in finding someone who simultaneously inspired, taught and pushed me... They are out there.

The Case for Theory
I personally do not see theory and playing as the same process at all. One (music theory) is cold calculated observation and groupings. The other (playing the instrument) is more of an approach/technical/magical thing - lots of grey area here. To learn to PLAY, a great teacher is a HUGE asset. To learn theory, almost any garden variety teacher of any instrument (who is qualified) can walk you through the Conservatory text and workbooks.

I stand by that for me THE BEST THING I ever did HANDS DOWN, was go to a teacher who forced me to go through my Level One and Two Rudiments (the teacher MADE ME sit the exams and the whole drill). I didn't even bring an instrument to the lessons until I was done. The foundation that this laid for me, is one that I draw on to this day. It has allowed me to self-teach and generally explore any area of music that interests me. But from an informed place. At the time I sat the exams, I didn't even understand how to apply a lot of the stuff I was learning. But in the years since, the dots have slowly connected. I can't put a value on those lessons and the wonderful foresight provided me by a wonderful teacher. Thanks Ray! You're the man brother.

The best thing for any musician is to find a more advanced player to help them along. Or several people. Sure it can be costly, Yes it can be inconvenient making the lesson time. Finding the right person can cause frustration and time in the search (not to mention money). But you have to ask how important playing well is to you. If you are just a hobby player and really don't care, then fine, learn online or from books. But if you are really serious about it then adding a great teacher to all that can be a difference maker. It really is up to you.

The Role of the Student
I think students would be surprised to know how important they are to the process. Critical. When a student comes through the door, prepared and excited it makes the teacher respond in kind. I was an AWESOME teacher for people like this... but I think most teachers would be too. I was simultaneously an ashamedly terrible teacher for other students.

If you go to your lesson with excitement and an idea of what you want to learn, then you stand a far better chance of getting your money's worth. As opposed to slinking in the door and expecting the teacher to knock your socks off while offering nothing.

The process of learning guitar isn't necessarily linear ... a lot of newbs expect the teacher to progress step by step... Sometimes you can, but often times there is one of a hundred different directions you can go. I used to start every lesson the same way - review last lessons materials, answer any questions, make any adjustments to technique then the dreaded "So what would you like to work on this week?" To which MANY had ZERO answer. I mean honestly, you have ALL WEEK to think about what you would like to do... How can people have ZERO idea? I'll tell you why, it's because they don't care, don't practice, no spark, waiting for someone to do it for them. The kicker is these cats walk around and slag that they got nothing from the lessons. I used to fire students all the time. "Come back when you are ready to learn."

If you expect ANY teacher to turn you into Jimi Hendrix you can forget it. Hendrix turned Hendrix into Hendrix. Just as you will turn you into you. It's up to YOU.

My advice - if you are taking lessons, be ready, be excited, be enthusiastic... Mostly be prepared to do the work. If you can be all these things I suspect you will have a hard time finding a bad teacher. 

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Matt Schofield - War We Wage tab

Even though, in the words of my good friend Greg, I recently told you to "not use tab and to do our own ear training and figure out stuff for ourselves". Here (at the bottom), for your use, are the tabbed notes I did for myself as I lifted the incredible Mr Matt Schofield's song 'War We Wage' from his Heads Tails & Aces album. For those of you who don't know Matt's work I highly recommend you fix that immediately! My absolute favorite blues guitarist today. He's a cool guy too (I met him at a small show he did North of Toronto at the best live venue ever! Peter's Players - GO THERE to see a show.)

From wikipedia:

Matt Schofield (born 21 August 1977, Manchester, England)[1][2] is an English blues guitarist and singer. His band, The Matt Schofield Trio, play their own material, which is a blend of blues, funk, and jazz, along with covers of blues classics such as Albert Collins' "Lights Are On, But Nobody's Home".

As many of you know I regularly preach about the value of using your ears to figure out songs - which is precisely what I did here.

My process
Typically as I go I quickly jot down a tab (so that I don't forget the lines) then go back at the end and re-learn the entire piece. During this process I do some analysis (looking for scales used, chord tones hit, passing notes, other treatments). In fact theory very much helps you in this process so don't dodge learning it.

What the?? Where's the note values?
This process for me is strictly for my use - so going to the trouble of doing proper notation is not something i always do. If my intention is to give this to another musician for performance standard notation is the only way to go. It is also VERY valuable to do it for the rhythm study - which I do sometimes. In all honestly I had not planned on posting this at all... So for those of your standard notation guys, before you give me grief keep this in mind.

Performance notes:

  • This is mostly over a Bmin vamp with occasional touches of E7.
  • Matt mostly chooses the pentatonic blues minor scale (with the added b5).
  • Over minor chords he also uses B Dorian a LOT
  • When the E7 presents itself in the harmony he often hits it. Specifically the G# (Major 3rd)
  • He also uses a brief piece of the diminished scale as well.

Most all of the notes in this piece reside in one of these places.

There could be a typo in here but most of these lines are pretty much note for note. I can say that with some confidence.

What makes his playing so wonderful is the lyrical quality of his touch and the pure musicality of his phrasing. Make this a study in touch as well, not just cherry picking lines. Beautifully delivered, lots to learn from here.

I can't stress how important it is for YOU to do this same thing with songs that inspire you. Make your own TABs and learn to be self sufficient. EVERY TIME I do a transcription I come away with TONS. I do these weekly. The great players out there all learned this way and do this all the time... at least they did in their formative periods. So take their lead. 

Monday, July 30, 2012

Picking - How do I get faster, some keys to right hand development

Lots of variables here ...

I should preface this by saying the is no one agreed upon "WAY". We are all different and I have seen many bizarre techniques of holding the pick (plectrum). Despite conventional wisdom - they all work. Take a minute and look at Steve Morse, Pat Metheny, Eddie Van Halen, Marty Freidman, Oz Noy and others - talk about odd! Totally different than conventional teachings, yet they all burn! So finding what works for you is at the root.

Couple of considerations:

  • Guitar height/strap length - When you practice you should be standing or better yet set your strap height to match - so that when you stand, OR sit, they are the same. The key thing is the angles involved between body and guitar shouldn't change. So if you practice sitting down.. then stand up using a long strap, all the angles change.. They need to remain consistent. So if you MUST use a long strap then practice while standing always.
  • Pick angle - For me I am close to 45 degrees to the string when burning. Flat would completely slow me down. Yet others say the opposite. As I said before, there is no one approach. So you really need to try them all.
  • Type of pick - Commonly the heavier the pick the better. You can't have your pick springing back (rebounding) at at different rate of speed than your playing. For this reason, soft picks are generally not the choice of most fast players. The best I have found are Dunlop Jazz III's... I don't personally like the small ones any more, even though I used them for over a decade. I recently switched to the XL version... then to a lighter pick... then back again! So look around. Again this is all personal comfort, so take some money, hit your local music store and come home with a good cross-section of weights, sizes and materials. More importantly, every few years repeat this process. I thought I had my process nailed down, only to find a new life with something different.

    I actually did a blog post that may help you, detailing some of this
  • Pointy end, or shoulder - for me I used the pointy end of the pick for years... Then I spun it around one day and have never gone back... I love the tone with the shoulder, and suddenly I am faster. ?? Moral of this story: Leave no stone unturned.
  • Floating bridge (Les Paul, SG) or Flat bridge (Strat, Tele) guitars - the different architecture of the instruments themselves determine your hands ability to rest on the body or not. This factor also plays a significant role in tension and general comfort. String scale length varies too and plays an equal role. If you have one type guitar, try the other... Few shredders go back and forth and most seem to opt for the flat strat style... Although if you have good technique either works. Joe Bonamassa seems to do JUST FINE on a raised bridge!
  • Floating hand or fixed hand - Floating has less resistance... but muting can be a challenge. I do both techniques for different passages. Ultimately, you need to master all of these different approaches. Different techniques generate different tonal colors... So the one you choose is ultimately decided by the sound you are after.
  • Where on the string you pick - if you pick near the neck joint, you are nearing the area where the string vibration (movement side to side as it rings) is the highest. Near the bridge, there is conversely almost no movement... But here, the bridge can get in the way of your hand! Try moving your hand along the length of the string as you play various passages. See where your execution is the clearest and what the tone is like. There is a sweet spot you need to find where comfort, tone and manageable string movement meet. Find it.
  • Elbow/wrist or fingers - I mostly pick from the wrist with some assistance from my fingers... On really fast passages, I lock up my wrist and fingers and vibrate like hell from the elbow... For me this works, although I have read people saying never pick from the elbow... Remember - you really need to leave no stone unturned.

    I know some players like the sarod style and here is a great video to help you (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v8kBt...e_gdata_player)
  • Tension - awareness of it is the key. Minimizing it is critical. Always strive to be in a relaxed state. Isolate any tension and adjust your positioning to minimize and hopefully eliminate it.

Lastly, I should say that how fast you are is mostly determined by the music you play regularly. If you listen to fast music and you practice fast music, the chances are you will eventually become a fast player. But if you listen to Pink Floyd all the time, then shred in practice only, it will always remain non-intuitive. You need to hear it a lot and do it a lot.

Also, you need to understand WHY you,want to be a fast player... Is it possible you are simply trying to impress people with it? Ego is a massive hindrance to your playing. I would highly recommend a read of a book like Kenny Werner's 'Effortless Mastery' or Victor Wootens 'The Music Lesson' to understand the role ego plays in your playing. We are all guilty of it to a degree. If you simply love fast music and hear fast music, then fine... But if you simply equate speed = talent and looking good in the eyes of others, then you are screwed from the get go.

 It should be said that ALL OF THIS is for naught if you don't play a LOT. One of the reasons people want to play fast is because it is a byproduct of all the work. When you hear a player really burning it is a testament to how much work that individual has done. Of course you want to be fast! We all do... but there is only one way to get it: put in the work.

Happy Picking to you all!

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Wayne Krantz Lesson - "4 fret" explained

One of my all-time favorites Wayne Krantz gives a lesson on his approach to Improv.

Tough Love - You want it? GO GET IT!

Over the past several years I have done a LOT of reading of musicians biographies. Combined with a LOT of reading of interviews etc. While doing all this reading I look specifically for the little hints at what these great players did practice wise. I also ALWAYS ask every great player I play with/meet/see about this exact thing. After doing all this the pattern is unmistakable. They ALL talk about never putting it down.

IMO The BIGGEST reason most people don't achieve a high level with playing is that they avoid the work. Always looking for tips, patterns and shortcuts.

  • They dont want to use their ears - they want tab.
  • They dont want to look honestly at their own playing - they want some method book.
  • They don't want to find a face-to-face teacher - they want to go to a free online site.
  • They don't want to learn theory - instead they talk about being a "feel player"
  • They don't go see live performances - they scour YouTube.
  • They spend as much if not MORE time on an internet chat type site than playing.

If ANY of this sounds like you, hear me on this - ALL YOU NEED is your music collection, the instrument, some time and a willingness to work hard. 

Everyone wants to play like Steve Vai... but few follow his lead. He regularly talks about how much he has to work at it STILL. We've all heard of his legendary 10hr guitar workout.... yet many of us who know of this, have the audacity to refer to him as a natural??? Doesn't sound too "natural" to me! Sounds like he simply did the work. ALL of it! Not just that parts he enjoyed.

The best tip anyone can give you is: stop looking for a shorter path.
Bear down on it -  

THAT is the short cut.

Bottom line: EVERY great guitarist didn't put the instrument down.
The rest of us did.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Ear Training 101 - Figuring out chords by ear

When you are picking out chords there is a pretty systematic approach you can use.

  1. Find the bass note first (the lowest one). Use just the low E string and go up and down its length for each note. Do this for each chord in the progression and play along with single notes until you are sure you have the bass movement.
  2. Start with the first chord - Using the bass note you found, try a major chord shape. If that sounds wrong try a minor chord shape... If that sounds wrong try a dominant chord (7) chord shape. 95% of the songs you try it will be one of these three types. I have included a chart below to assist you.
  3. Do this for each chord until you are pretty sure it is right. Play along with the song... then turn it off and play solo. If one chord sounds off try a different chord type until it sounds good.
  4. If it sounds right, but you are sliding up and down the neck too much, then find the higher bass notes using the A and D string. Do whatever it takes to get the bass notes mostly in one place. Most guitar parts are positional - meaning they typically are in one area of the neck.
  5. Apply the chord type you worked out to each bass note in its new location.

Knowing the names, or at least knowing how to figure out the names of the notes on the neck is extremely beneficial. For example, If you found a bass note waaay up on the 8th fret of the low E string. It is very helpful to know that this note is C. As most even beginning guitarists know how to play a C chord in open position. A song with a simple G, C, D chord progression can look like this:


Here is an image of the different chord types as played as a barre chord
(borrowed from: http://home.roadrunner.com/~nils/GuitarChordCharts.htm)

Lastly, the most important thing is patience. MOST people give up WAAAAAYYY too soon. The first few songs you do will be a nightmare. Take a long time. But with each new one you learn some tricks. STAY with it. You CAN do it with some dedication.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

How I got Faster

For years I worked on speed specific drills (two GREAT resources for this are Frank Gambale's Chopbuilders DVD and Troy Stetina's Speed Mechanics) also lots of metronome click filled scale patterns etc.

It worked pretty well up to a point, couple of them actually:
One, I hit a plateau and never seemed to move much beyond it.
Two, I was never really able to USE this speed in solos... When I tried they mostly sounded like: 'cut ... paste in fast part ... resume'. In other words, my speed was VERY situational.

So one day I stopped 100% working on drills. Instead I spent my time learning mostly songs along with familiarizing myself with the fretboard (note reading, arpeggios, circle of fourths drills, jazz standards). A funny thing happened - I BLEW past my previous speed thresholds ... and even cooler I was starting to phrase at higher speeds.

I can only assume that mentally as grew more sure-footed, there was less CPU spent working on the speed. I wasn't "trying" any more. Perhaps this led to an increased relaxation... Perhaps I was having more fun, I don't really know why. But it worked.

Change everything once in a while
Another element that had impact for sure was I changed my picking. Both the physical pick itself and how I hold it. I detailed this in one of these blog entries:


It's Irie Man
So it seems odd to say "don't worry about it" ... but it is kind of what helped me.

These days I MOSTLY just play, I make music all the time. Things like:
  • Learn new songs weekly - ALL BY EAR
  • Solo pieces improvised
  • Creating my own backing tracks on a looper pedal
    (with odd chords and soloing over them)
  • Learning jazz standards through the fake books
    (setting up loops and practice soloing through the changes)
  • I regularly try to add new chord voicings
    (Ted Greene's Chord Chemistry is awesome for this). 

But ALL of it centers the focus around having fun and making music. AT ALL TIMES. I really don't worry about getting faster ... but still, faster I get.

So at the heart of all this is one word "RELAX"

Relax your approach
Relax your hands (light touch)
Relax and be patient, it will come.

Work HARD ... but RELAX... just get me a beer before you do : )

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

The monster that is Eddie Van Halen

For all of you who thought Eddie Van Halen was a gimmicky player. Check this out. It is a one on one interview with Steve Rosen. Eddie on a little practice amp - mostly clean and turned way down. MAN could he alternate pick! Scary. This is a really cool interview.

Eddie Van Halen hit me like a freight train the first time I heard him. I was 8 or 9 years old the first time I heard the sound of  "Eruption" as it blared from the open window of a teenager-filled car. What hit me was the intensity of the sound, the grinding now famous "brown-sound" (combination of a cranked Marshall with a Flanger). Man that was cool .... they were cool .... HE was cool.

The thing that should be noticed by y'all is that you can hear that sound in this interview. Clearly this SOUNDS like Eddie. But wait a minute? Where is the Marshall and all the pedals? There are none! The sound lives in how he attacks the strings. The tone is IN his hands.

So the next time you think your tone sucks and you head off in search of another new amp. Remember this clip. A player like this could make the worst gear sound simply fantastic. Because he is just that - fantastic.

Monday, June 18, 2012

OZ Noy - New Instructional DVDs

Well, well, well, two long awaited items hit the streets at around the same time. My first blog entry in a LOONG time! (Sorry folks, been busy playing - I know you understand that!). And, much more importantly, two instructional vids for the insanely innovative Mr. Oz Noy.

As some of you may, or may not know, I have studied privately with Oz on a few occasions. I think the world of him as a player and a person. He is as cool, knowledgeable and down to earth a guy as you will ever meet. Like the man, these videos are full of the same approach and humour. He hides nothing and shares openly all his 'secrets'. Much of the vibe you get with him in person carries through the camera. So these truly are as close to a one-on-one lesson with him as you can get... without being one-on-one.

The vids are fun and chock full of good information that will help a player of any genre. There are interviews, gear demos, performance clips, excellent video and audio quality. PDF charts with tabs and standard notation. Pretty much everything a player would want. I highly recommend you click on this link and grab BOTH these wonderful DVDs. For more information and demo vids to to jazzheaven.com and see for yourself.

It should also be said that Jazz Heaven seems to be living up to their name! Some of the other musicians these folks have done videos with look truly astounding as well. If the quality of the other offerings is as good as these vids, (and I have no reason to doubt that) then I know what will be on my Christmas gift list for a few years to come. Bravo Jazz Heaven.

Peace and OUT

Friday, February 24, 2012

A Players Mind: From Shred to music. How to stop the wanking

Here's the thing... shredding can become a preset... just something you do. You need to understand, or at least be observant to, what you are thinking while you are playing.

Try this
Put on a backing track and do your thing. But take special notice of what you are thinking. Ego plays such a HUGE role in how we play. The "problem" is, most of us strive to be known as a great player... I mean who doesn't want that right? This fuels the need to "be impressive". Problem is, when you TRY (at really anything) the forced attempt is usually pushing you farther from your goal of "impressive". You shouldn't be 'trying' AT ALL! You should be listening and reacting. Play one phrase... Then play the next BECAUSE of the first phrase. It should be a narrative of some kind. Call, respond, call, respond. Leave some holes between - just like when you speak.

Bottom line
You need to ask yourself some really hard questions about your motives and be brutally honest. I suspect most of you you won't like the truth. I didn't. Some excellent books for helping put that mental interference aside are "Effortless Mastery" (Kenny Werner) & "The Music Lesson" (Victor Wooten). Get em, read em, apply em.

Truth is
95% of the people who listen to music, or see live shows have NO IDEA what is 'impressive'. Hell, most of them can't play a simple C Chord! They just know what sounds good. Humans can sense melody and are drawn to it. MOST run-of-the-mill shredders habitually run up and down scale forms. I mean really... is that interesting? I guess some of the technique is momentarily dazzling, but by the end of the first song you have heard all they got.

I believe that the bigger the interval, the bigger the melodic content. By this principle, the above shredder is moving in mostly minor 2nds or 2nds.... the LEAST melodic of intervals. Can you really expect huge melodic impact with a strategy like this?

What the??
Shredding is GREAT! Love it - when done well. You really need to listen to HOW your favourite shredders use their speed. WHEN exactly do they burn? WHAT does that make you (the listener) feel? Usually it is for an impact - tension... or a transition to a new part of the neck or a new idea. Few of the 'known players' just mindlessly blast scales. There is a musical purpose to it. It just makes sense, feels like it belongs.

Speed is another tool in your box. Sure a wrench is pretty darn handy to have... but there are times when a hammer would be much better for the job! (I love this analogy and use it often so forgive me) Don't just work with the wrench. Develop your other tools equally. Then try to build things with them, actual ideas with purpose. Not just finger movements that you are good at.

Spend the necessary time with some personal introspection. Then begin anew. Set up some loops and record yourself playing over it. Take notes of which phrases worked then ask yourself: WHY YOU FEEL THEY WORKED. Very important. Develop STRONG opinions and try to learn to listen as a listener would. Would you want to hear yourself if you were just the listener? Learn what works, then begin to give back.

Giving back
Playing isn't ALL about you, its about making connections with the audience. On a deeper level than "wow he has fast fingers". Give them a chance to join you once in a while on the adventure. Get them invested by giving them something they can follow. Maybe tap their foot to. "Sing" them a melody. Remember, most of them have no idea what is "hard".

They aren't as impressed as you think they are. Most of them are just confused. That's why they are talking to their friends instead of watching.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

The Ear Training Challenge - Take it.

Many guitar players are often searching for that missing practice element that will make a difference in their playing. My contention is the #1 "secret" to playing well - if there is one - can be found in learning songs and solos from the recordings - using only your ears.

A lot of players may know a lot of songs, but how many of them were learned with the help of TAB's? If the answer is "a lot" then this challenge is for you.

Conversely, many players DO spend a good deal of time learning songs by ear. But many of these cats may be missing one critical element - analysis. After a song or solo is learned, it should be checked over to see what makes it tick. It is during this process that really valuable observations happen.

The more you do this, the more these observations become increasingly clear. Insight like this can be very handy the next time you are required to improvise, or work your way through an unfamiliar song.

So here is the challenge.

ONE MONTH, nothing but this process for the entire practice month.
Here is what I want you to do.

  • Pick a guitarist that you know is good and really like how they play (eg - David Gilmour of Pink Floyd)
  • Pick your favourite album (eg. Dark side of the moon)
  • Learn EVERY SINGLE guitar solo on the record, using only your ears
  • As you complete track one, go back and figure out:
    - What key the song was in
    - What chords were played behind the solo
    - What scale was mostly used in the solo
    - What notes were chosen and how many of them were chord tones from the underlying rhythm part
    - Were there any triads, or chord fragments present in the solo, played as single note lines
    - When there is a bent note what was the note bent to?? A chord tone or non?
    - What was the time signature
  • Track how long time-wise did it take you to complete. (Track this so you can see your progress and your ears improving.)
  • Move onto track two, progressing until you complete the album.
  • Pick a new album and carry on...
    - If you choose another album of the same artist, you will gain a MUCH deeper insight into that players habits and approaches.
    - If you pick an album from the same genre, it will give you a better understanding of that genre.

Print this out and fill it out like a questionnaire as you do this process.
Use a software like Transcribe! to assist you.

Some people will say "this is too hard"... or that "I guess I just don't have good ears". If this is you, you need to read this... in fact, read it any way!

Friday, January 13, 2012

Scott Henderson - Again-derson! Friday fun

Man am I am fan of this cat's playing. Here is Scott Henderson playing the title tracks from two of his albums. I am particularly a fan of his monstrous Strat tone! Between 94 & 2002 he released three 'blues' albums - Dog Party, Tore Down House & Well to the Bone. If you are a fan of the Blues style and you like severely GREAT guitarists, then these albums should be in your collection.

So grab a cold one, turn em up loud, and ENJOY!

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Speed vs Melody - a rant

It takes a good deal of skill to create something that is both fast AND melodic. But the catch is, if you always stay with what your idea of "melodic" is, then you can become very one-dimensional. Speed has an emotional content... it says something - if done right that is. Problem is, It often is not "done right". As witnessed on YouTube or in many bars across the globe. I think this is the crux of it.

How you execute melody really depends on the point of the skill curve you are on... If you can play fast passages as well as slow ones - yet remain melodic - then to me, this is the best-case scenario. Players who own this are likely what lured you to play fast in the first place.

If your skill isn't quite there yet to execute fast, then when the "tape" is rolling, it may be the best choice to keep it simple. As you improve, your version of what is "simple" also moves along in lock-step. All of a sudden you can execute more technical parts, yet remain musical. So playing within your abilities is the key.

The Genesis of the 'simple' mindset
I think a LARGE part with what is (in my opinion) "wrong" with a lot of bands these days, is they grew up listening to grunge. Their bag of tricks is SO small that they really have no idea how to expand on a theme, or create a decent solo. So they just plod along with cowboy chords, lots of distortion and syrupy, predictable melodies. They don't know what to do... and they don't know why they don't.

For those unfamiliar with the term; "grunge" was a brand of stripped down rock, born in Seattle in the 90's. Pioneered by bands like Nirvana. Great music no doubt... I take no issue with the music itself. But the mind set of a grunge player was one of 'anti-skill'. They didn't want to be seen as technical. They were down and dirty, garage bands and proud! Young players of that time were so sick of the over-playing and shred heavy soloing that much of metal and hard rock had become. So grunge was anti...

Which is fine for the players who created it! They had their stuff together. But for the kids learning to play at the time, these were their role models.

The great early masters grew up learning classical and with that skill set created jazz. Players who created the classic rock of the 60's-70's grew up learning from these players ... They knew their stuff. The next era learned from these slightly less skilled guys ... and knew a little bit less..... Like a photocopy of a photocopy of a photocopy - degrading in quality and getting further removed from true musical skill with each step.

Shred Anonymous
The truth of it is, the VAST majority of us are not honest with ourselves. Not honest AT ALL. We don't produce ourselves well. without ego, as a listener would. You really need to understand WHY you are shredding. If it is deep down a need to impress people, then maybe you should hold off. I suspect far more of us than are willing to admit shred because we want to be thought of as a top-notch player. It comes from a place of ego. THIS undermines ALL the hard work we are doing. If you always play the best part for the SONG... not for YOU, but for the SONG, then you can't go wrong.

Simple Anonymous
 But none of this in my opinion means you shouldn't try to be the best you can be. The flip side is a LOT of players simply aren't willing to do the work it takes to master speed. So they call themselves "feel players". Then go around mocking more technically skilled players with words like "widdly, widdly" or tags like "self indulgent". It can be a BS cop out too.

So what does all this mean?
If you like simple melodies because you like simple melodies - GREAT! Play simple.
But - if you like simple melodies, because you maybe lack the skill to play more complex ones... then perhaps you should get to work.

All this relies on you being truly, deeply, heart-breakingly honest with yourself.