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.