Tag: beginner

Kickass Elegant Blues Lick in the Key of E

kickass elegant blues lick in the key of e

Last Updated on July 6, 2022 by Klaus Crow Blues licks are tiny creative ideas, elements as well as devices for blues soloing as well as improvisation. They provide you the motivation you require and show you the skills to establish attractive ariose and also wonderful solos, so today we provide with a Kickass Elegant Blues Lick. Kickass Elegant Blues […]

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One-Shape Blues

one shape blues

As usual, there is more to this lesson than the title implies. We will be working with one chord shape at a time, but over the course of the lesson we’ll study three different shapes. The final example in this lesson incorporates all three shapes to demonstrate how a few basic ideas can provide us with infinite possibilities.

It is important to know that for every chord name in this lesson there are countless shapes—also known as fingerings or voicings—available. For this lesson, I chose what I consider to be the most practical and flexible shapes.

The A7 Shape

A relatively straightforward shape, the A7 form only requires two fingers, and if you can manage to keep the open 5th string ringing and get the G on the 1st string to sound, the rest will eventually make itself heard.

Like all of the examples in this lesson, Ex. 1 is a 12-bar blues using the I, IV, and V chords with a “quick change.” That means we’ll be moving to the IV chord in measure two rather than staying on the I chord for four measures. Both the quick change and non-quick change forms are commonplace in the blues repertoire. Additionally, all examples will move the chord shape(s) up and down the guitar neck, allowing us to play through the entire progression. The real fun begins with modifications you can generate using right-hand rhythmic patterns.

For Ex. 1, merely finger the A7 shape, strum the basic rhythmic pattern, then move the shape from the 2nd fret (think of the barre in this shape as your fret point of reference) up to the 7th fret. Wondrously, the A7 shape now sounds a D7 chord! That’s because even though the shape hasn’t changed, the fretboard position has. A static shape with lots of movement—that’s the secret. To complete the 12-bar blues form, simply move the A7 shape up to the 9th fret for the E7 chord.

Things start to get interesting in Ex. 2, and yes, we do modify the shape ever so slightly. First let’s address the right-hand pattern. You can play this figure using your fingers or a pick (I used my fingers in the audio) as you alternate between the open 5th string and the chord. Meanwhile, your left hand has some work to do as well. You’ll be lifting off your third finger between each A7 chord to allow the 2nd fret notes to ring (with the barre), which creates an A6 chord. This A7–A6 relationship is lifeblood to the blues. This pattern may be noticeably harder for some beginners. If so, don’t concern yourself with moving to the other positions, just work on the A7-A6 movement. Once that is manageable, the shifting shouldn’t cause you too much distress.

Note: When you move to the D7 chord at the 7th fret, you should play the 4th string open for the bass note. Likewise, when playing the E7 at the 9th, play the 6th string open.

The E7 Shape

Ex. 3 continues our theme with the E7 shape. This might be more challenging than the A7 shape, but stick with it—it’s an essential grip. As with the previous example, this one focuses on the right hand for variety. But unlike the previous examples, I used a flatpick when recording this track. Don’t fixate on getting every single note right, but be loose and aim for the essence of the chord. Missing a note or two isn’t a big deal. Only on the B7 shape does accidently hitting the 1st string imply some non-blues color you might want to avoid … maybe not. I kept a fluid down-up strumming pattern throughout this example, but once you have the basics down, feel free to mix it up.

Ex. 4 stays with the same E7 shape, although now we will be very specific with our right hand. This is a common fingerpicking pattern, with the thumb handling the 6th, 5th, and 4th strings, and the fingers picking the rest. At first, focus more on the picking pattern than the chord movement, as it’s the fingerpicking that’s vital to this style of playing. Note that you do not play the open 1st string on the B7 chord, otherwise the pattern is uniform throughout.

The D7 Shape

You could argue I should have started this lesson with the D7 shape, as it is probably the easiest shape to play. Consider my saving it for last as a reward for making it this far! In Ex. 5, I’ve gone electric and added bass and drums to demonstrate how these shapes work in any context.

Ex. 5 is two choruses of a 12-bar. The first sticks with our unwavering right-hand picking pattern and left-hand movement up and down the neck. The second proves that, with rhythmic variation, one can create boundless combinations when playing with simple shapes.

All Three Shapes

Finally, Ex. 6 incorporates all three shapes into two choruses of a 12-bar blues. The first chorus applies the shapes in their most basic forms, the second chorus displays more functionality and complexity.

I hope this lesson has shown you that the modesty of basic chord shapes and the predictability of a chord progression are not a measure of aptitude. A better gauge of proficiency? The capability to imagine and create incalculable variations from a small number of rudimentary concepts.

Exactly How to Play Beautiful Chords and Melody

how to play beautiful chords and melody

Last Updated on June 29, 2022 by Klaus Crow The mix of playing chords and also melody is a prominent method to obtain an attractive sound from your guitar. That’s why I developed a collection of these chord tune tunes. This one is a truly elegance with whole lots a various decorations and also guitar strategies. Just how to […]

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Rethinking the Blues Scale

rethinking the blues scale

Last updated on May 21, 2022

Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for blues music, but the blues scale can yield beguiling musical results that bear little resemblance to the traditional blues—particularly if one looks at (and listens to) the scale from a different point of view.

Chord Creation

The idea of harmonization is relatively simple. It means is to play two or more notes together at the same time. Technically speaking, two notes performed at the same time create a dyad, not a chord. It takes three or more notes performed simultaneously to create a chord, although the one exception, the two-note so-called “power chord” in Ex. 1, skews this theory a bit.

So, which two or more notes should you harmonize? Any you want! But, if you desire continuity in your compositions and playing, it’s a good idea to harmonize notes from a specific scale.

Most musicians usually start with the major scale, stacking every other note of the scale on top of each other until a triad is created (Ex. 2).

From there you can start adding, or replacing notes, to create variations from these basic triads, as seen in Ex. 3.

I must point out that you can also arpeggiate these chords, playing the notes one at a time (Ex. 4). Since we are emphasizing harmony in this lesson, it helps to let them ring out.

That’s the most common way to create chords, but in this lesson we’re looking for something unusual. So rather than being so formulaic, let’s proceed with the basic idea that playing two or more notes at the same time will work as long as they all come from the blues scale.

The blues scale is just the minor pentatonic scale with one additional note, which gets labeled #4 or a b5 depending on context. Ex. 5 shows the most common “box” pattern for the A blues scale (A–C–D–Eb–E–G). After getting a hold of this scale, I recommend working on it in the key of E and D since many of the notes can be played with open strings.

There are two considerable disparities when it comes to generating chords from the blues scale as compared to the major scale. First, the blues scale only has six notes and second, the intervals between the notes in each scale are significantly different.

This means that the blues scale creates radical changes in chord construction and nomenclature, the theory of which is far beyond the scope of this lesson. For instance, Ex. 6 is a selection of relatively common chords you can generate from the A blues scale. Later on, we will get into more exotic harmonies.

For now, all you really need to understand about the theory is that, the chords, and the melodies I’ve composed to fit them, all come from harmonizing notes from the A blues scale.

When Theory, Intuition, and Creativity Meet

Once the concept of harmonization is understood, the possibilities are limited only by your imagination. The following examples are just a few of the endless ideas you could generate. I have designed my examples to imitate the styles of well-known composers and guitarists and broken them down into how they are fingered on the fretboard.

Ex. 7 is a particularly fun place to start as this arpeggio is just the A blues scale, but the notes are displaced into different octaves to create chords.

For Ex. 8 I’ve rearranged the notes ever so slightly to create a slightly more uniform, pseudo-Slayer progression and melody.

Ex. 8

The bent note at the beginning of Ex. 9 immediately made me think of Jimmy Page, so for guitar two, I mimicked Robert Plant’s chromatic vocal melody on “Misty Mountain Hop” to create this Led Zeppelin-inspired etude. Note that the first chord is labeled A5(#11) because it contains the D# almost an octave and half higher than the root, making it a #11 in relationship to the A.

Ex. 9

Ex. 10 was a happy accident I discovered while playing around with this lesson’s concept. It’s unashamedly Nine Inch Nails meets Andy Summers. The second chord in the progression is a little tricky to label, so I went with D5(b9) as it contains Eb an octave and one half-step away from the root, making it the b9.

Ex. 10

Ex. 11 demonstrates the power of playing unexpected, three-note chords over a static bassline, very similar to funk/fusion keyboard players in the 1970s (think Herbie Hancock and Chick Corea). To provide continuity, I’ve actually harmonized the blues scale using the same method discussed in Ex. 2. The chord labels I’ve chosen are derived from a combination of the chords and the bass line, though you’ll see there are really only two chords: Cm and Asus4, played with different voicings. And take my word for it, the fact that this progression contains both Cm and Am chords is highly unusual and worth more investigation.

Ex. 11

Ex. 12 Is a pseudo-power chord riff a la Fugazi or other bands found in the post-punk/emo genres. I’ve started here with a variation of the A5(#11) chord. Perhaps this is the defining chord of the harmonized blues scale? The rest of the progression seems to alternate between variations of Am and G, but notice that the bass is playing different notes over the chords, providing harmonic variation. Also pay attention that B and C sections are slightly different.

Ex. 12

Comprehend and Create!

I hope by now you’ve realized that the key to exploiting the harmonized blues scale is to include the #4/b5 in all your progressions. This is the vital element that distinguishes the blues scale from so many others. Make your own progressions, melodies, and songs based on what we’ve started here. You are only limited by your imagination.

Why Is Rhythm Guitar So Hard?

why is rhythm guitar so hard

Last updated on May 12, 2022

Rhythm guitar is arguably the most important aspect of guitar playing, and it’s also one of the most challenging skills to develop. The discouragement many players feel when working on rhythms forces too many of them to oversimplify the nuances, and this can reduce a performance from exceptional to fine. In this lesson, we’ll investigate why rhythm guitar can be so puzzling and look at a few ways to keep yourself motivated enough to persevere and improve.

Why So Hard?

In my many years of teaching I have found that students can learn the basic open-position chord shapes relatively quickly. The same goes for the pentatonic and major scale patterns. Even riffs and hooks like “Smoke on the Water,” “Crazy Train,” and “Oh, Pretty Woman” come relatively quickly to beginners. The biggest challenge for most guitar players is mastering rhythm guitar.

I’m not referring to the basics, such as four down strums in a measure of 4/4, a down and up eighth-note strum, or even the slightly syncopated strum of Ex. 1.

Ex. 1

Rather, I’m talking about the rhythms in countless classic rock, folk, and pop songs, which are the mainstays—for better or worse—of every oldies station, cover band’s setlist, and many aspiring beginners’ guitar dreams. Why are these rhythms so challenging for most players?

Dictionary.com defines idiosyncratic as “something peculiar to an individual.” Well, there’s your answer. Many of our favorite songs and guitarists, such as Neil Young, Malcolm and Angus Young, Joni Mitchell, David Gilmour, Jimi Hendrix, and Prince, possess idiosyncratic strums. How can something peculiar to an individual be easily reproduced? It can’t. Imitation takes hard work, hours of practice and refinement, and highly developed listening skills. That is not to say that idiosyncratic strums can’t be reproduced, only that they can’t be imitated easily.

What Can Guitar Players do to Improve Their Rhythm? 

The first priority is to confirm that you genuinely know how the rhythm was originally performed. In this day and age, with reliable, professionally created guitar transcriptions and instructional videos (as well as an abundance of isolated rhythm guitar tracks on YouTube), there is ample opportunity to both hear and see accurate rhythms. This doesn’t make the rhythm immediately easier to play. It will help you avoid practicing it incorrectly and allow you to generate modifications based on the original, rather than through guesswork.

Play the Part Correctly and Slowly

The second step I recommend is to endeavor to play the part correctly and slowly. This requires playing the rhythms with slower tempos and one measure at a time rather than the more common four-measure patterns. This second aspect is important as many idiosyncratic strums vary from measure to measure. Such a lack of uniformity adds to the artistry of the music, but it can be frustrating to imitate.

For instance, look at Ex. 2, which is similar to Pink Floyd’s “Wish You Were Here.” While the chords themselves, G–C–D–Am, are easy enough to fret, the strum pattern is a nightmare of mixed rhythms, with each measure not only containing a different pattern, but different string choices as well. (To make it even more tricky, David Gilmour continues to vary his rhythms throughout the song.) Let’s consider just the first measure. There’s only one chord, but three different rhythmic figures. It gets even worse than that. Sometimes the strum includes all six strings, other times one note, two notes, or three notes. Maddening! This is one of the most challenging aspects of idiosyncratic rhythm. And these types of variations show up over and over again in accurate portfolio transcriptions. Yes, it is correct, but it’s an ordeal to decipher.

Ex. 2

Here’s a tip. First work on the strum, not the individually plucked notes and strings. Strum the entire G chord (Ex. 3). Next, isolate the lowest note in the chord (Ex. 4). If you can play this correctly then you can begin mixing it up with a combination of full chords, single bass notes, and partial chords. Trust me, Gilmour wasn’t thinking, “Gotta play just the top three strings on the 16th-note upbeat of beat two and the two bottom strings on the ‘and’ of beat four.” It’s idiosyncratic! Once you have measure one correct, move on to measure two, which is slightly different. Measures three and four are also marginally altered.

Ex. 3

Ex. 4

Hopefully you’ll find that one new rhythmic pattern on its own is relatively manageable. Having to generate four different patterns in the space of four measures? In that situation, strums become exponentially more complex. As this lesson moves forward, all the examples will be variations on this theme, in different contexts, and citing different specific artists. The idea here is to demonstrate the vast complexity idiosyncratic playing can generate.

Neil Young’s Strumming Patterns

In my experience, Neil Young has some of the most seemingly random strums one can find. He’ll play a song with only four chords but there will be 16 different strum patterns. It’s both inspiring and infuriating. Ex. 5 is an example of such an exasperating figure, based on “Heart of Gold.” There are four chords in two measures, each with a different strum, followed by variations on the same four chords! Brilliant and unbearable.

Ex. 5

Ex. 5

To make mastering this a bit more tolerable, as with the previous Gilmour-esque pattern, break it down into smaller parts. You’ll also want to add full chord strums on the Em and C. Ex. 6. and Ex. 7 demonstrate measures three and four of Ex. 5, isolated and repeated. Do this for the first two measures as well.

Ex. 6

Ex. 6

Ex. 7

Joni Mitchell’s “Big Yellow Taxi”

Another icon of individuality is Joni Mitchell, who deserves a lesson all to herself. For now, Ex. 8 will suffice. In this example, based on “Big Yellow Taxi” (although the original is performed in open-E tuning), there is the added complication of muted strums.

Ex. 8

If these muted strums are new to you, I recommend you focus on the mutes, as shown in Ex. 9. Once that is comfortable, return to Ex. 8 and incorporate the barre chords into the pattern. As with all our examples thus far, break them down, making sure each measure is solid before moving on to the next. At the risk of belaboring the point, these strums are demanding—there is no instant gratification here. “Practice and refine” should be your mantra.

Ex. 9

Let’s Talk About Jimi Hendrix

It would be impossible to write about either guitar icons or 6-string idiosyncrasy without mentioning Jimi Hendrix. Jimi’s use of his thumb to fret chords is alone worthy of attention. For now, let’s stick with his eccentric strumming patterns. A good place to start is probably Hendrix’s version of “Hey Joe.” It consists of a three-and-a-half-minute loop of the circle of fourths chord progression C–G–D–A–E, yet Jimi finds a new way to play the pattern every time. Ex. 10 offers one of countless variations you can attempt. Ex. 11 demonstrates how to break it down.

Ex. 10

Ex. 11

While it’s true that most AC/DC songs feature the same riff or chord pattern played repetitively, you’ll also find that many of those patterns are four measures long, with multiple, highly syncopated rhythms found within each measure. “You Shook Me All Night Long,” “Bad Boy Boogie,” and “Highway to Hell” are all excellent examples of this. Ex. 12 demonstrates Malcolm and Angus Young’s penchants for such patterns by imitating the rhythms of “For Those About to Rock (We Salute You).” As you can hear, there are four measures with an immense amount of space in them and four different rhythmic figures. The key to perfecting this sort of rhythm is to not rush. Either tap your foot or use a metronome to keep your tempo steady.

Ex. 12

Our final example isn’t exactly idiosyncratic, though the referenced artist is. While Prince’s music and personal style is incredibly diverse, he often wears his influences on his sleeves, whether those be James Brown, Jimi Hendrix, or Joni Mitchell. Nevertheless, he habitually put his own spin on the source inspiration.

Ex. 13 provides you with a funky rhythm that will improve your playing, no matter what genre you specialize in, as it features muted strings (similar to those in our Joni Mitchell example), a fast syncopated 16th-note strum, and a four-measure pattern that requires you to focus on the subtle variations found in the pattern. Once again, I’ll remind you to practice such patterns one measure at a time. Goodness, any one of these measures is funky enough on its own and would satisfy most funk musicians: It’s the idiosyncratic nature of Prince to go beyond.

Ex. 13

Ex. 14 is measure three of Ex. 13 isolated and repeated. I’ve chosen this measure because for me it’s the easiest to play (always start with what’s easiest for you). Note that in Ex. 14, I removed the muted strums. We know they’re in the original and we can add them in soon enough, as demonstrated in Ex. 15.

Ex. 14

Ex. 15

Finally, let’s play all four measures without the mutes, as demonstrated in Ex. 16. It is this sort of compartmentalized, methodical, attention-to-detail practice that will improve your playing.

Ex. 16

Words of Encouragement

Ironically, one of the best things I can tell you about practicing the guitar is, “Learning to play guitar is hard!” I don’t say this to discourage, but to give perspective. If it’s taking you a week to learn a certain rhythmic pattern, guess what? It might take you a month to really get it down. Still, the rewards are worth the effort. Good luck with your rhythms!

A Beginner’s Guide to Strumming

a beginners guide to strumming

Strumming great rhythm guitar is a core skill. It’s never too soon—or too late—to get a solid groove going. With a few simple chord shapes, you can be up and running rather quickly. (You can even tune your guitar’s open strings to a chord and simply strum the open strings.) Players like Neil Young, Kurt Cobain, Noel Gallagher, and Jimmy Page all have an individualized approach to simple strums. Let’s dig in and tighten up our rhythm chops.

These music examples use a variety of basic chords and progressions, but if they’re still too challenging, don’t give up. Pick any chords you like and try them. Listen carefully to the recorded examples so that you can pick up details about the sounds we’re going for. Strumming is typically done with a pick, so I’ll recommend that approach. There are certainly strummed styles that use fingers, such as the elegant and sophisticated flamenco techniques and the unique and personal approaches of people like Jack Johnson or Tommy Emmanuel. Explore those but do try for some practice time with the pick.

Let’s begin with some basic symbols, terms, and notation systems.

We have downstrokes and upstrokes. A downstroke means the pick moves toward the floor. In this case it strikes the lowest strings first. Upstrokes are simply the reverse; you start by striking the higher strings first.

Let’s start by simply strumming an E minor chord with downstrokes (Ex. 1). We’ll strum once per beat. You can see the musical notation shows quarter-notes in 4/4 time. The downstroke symbol is used to remind you of the strum direction. Hold your pick loosely enough to pass quickly through the strings. We want the illusion that all the strings are being struck at the same time. Of course, the notes are staggered, but it shouldn’t sound that way. Strive for an “instant” sound.

Ex. 1

A light grip of the pick and a swift strum through the strings gives us a rhythmically precise and tight sound.

Does your strum sound like that? Great! If it doesn’t, it might be because your strum is a drawn-out motion that results in a harp-like effect, which lacks crispness and rhythmic precision. Save this for the last chord of a song or for an isolated effect. Not much groove happening in this version.

Neil Young – Cortez The Killer (Acoustic)

Upstrokes are usually reserved for upbeats. Thus, it’s common to incorporate eighth-notes with up strokes. A rule of thumb: Use downstrokes on the downbeats (1, 2, 3, 4) and upstrokes on the “and” or each beat. If you are tapping your foot to the beat, the pick direction will match your foot’s movement. In Ex. 2 you’ll see the rhythmic notation with pick strokes.

Ex. 2

It’s reasonable to assume that you must play all the strings with each stroke. While that’s possible, it’s not so common. Typically, the downstrokes favor the lower strings and the upstrokes favor the high strings. You don’t have to be super accurate. The beauty of this is that a bit of randomness makes it sound more human and more musical. Listen to Ex. 3 for the differences between this version and Ex. 2.

Ex. 3

Nirvana – About A Girl (MTV Unplugged)

Let’s do another example (Ex. 4), but this time with a chord change. Notice that the very last chord before the change is simply a few open strings. No one can change chords instantaneously, so it’s common to “cheat” like this: Use the last upstroke as your time to change chords. If you listen closely to some favorite songs, you might be surprised to hear how often this happens.

Ex. 4

Once the basic movements are comfortable, it’s time to add rhythmic variation (Ex. 5). Since we’ve been playing constant eighth-notes, we’ll now remove a strum—variety can be created via omission. Try this by “missing” the strings. In other words, keep your strum movement going, still up and down, matching the beat—just avoid the strings for a “miss.” Remember downstrokes are on the beat, upstrokes for the “ands.”

Ex. 5

Here’s another common rhythm, where we are “missing” one more strum (Ex. 6). Listen for which strings are struck with the downstroke and the upstroke.

Ex. 6

Noel Gallagher “Wonderwall” Live on the Stern Show (1997)

The previous two examples omit the sound of a couple of upstrokes, but we can also omit a downstroke (Ex. 7). This will create a syncopated rhythm. Syncopation is created by having an upstroke that is not followed by a downstroke. This helps to accent different parts of the measure.

Ex. 7

It’s time to notice details about musical stresses—what we call accents. A typical acoustic groove often mimics the feel of a good drumbeat. The low strings can act like a bass drum and the high strings can act like the snare drum. Basic drum beats often have bass drum on beats 1 and 3 and snare drum on 2 and 4. Ex. 8 is a simple way to adapt that to the guitar. Accents can be achieved by playing a certain chord louder or by striking more notes in a given chord. Adding some upbeats to this approach is like adding a ride cymbal or hi-hat to the groove.

Ex. 8

We can accent certain strokes and create interesting rhythms that way—even when there’s a seemingly bland rhythm, as in Ex. 9. Variety and interest are achieved through dynamics (musical volume) and accents. We can create a vibrant and intensely varied part that is anything but mechanical. The long wedge symbol is a crescendo, which means to gradually get louder. The symbols that look like “greater than” are accents.

Ex. 9

Ex. 10 is a variant of Ex. 9. Instead of eighth-notes (two strums per beat), we have 16th-notes (four strums per beat). The tempo is moderately slow, but it’s still quite busy. Remember, you don’t have to strike all the strings of the chord. Downstrokes favor low strings and upstrokes favor high strings. As with the previous example, an interesting rhythm is created via accents.

Ex. 10

Once you’re comfortable with your strums, it’s time to add rests. Rests are silences. We can use rests to add variety, since it can be tedious to have endless sound that’s not contrasted by silence. Rests are typically “played” by landing the pinky side of your hand on the strings. No worries if the rest makes a click sound, that can even be desirable. Try Ex. 11 for a simple exercise with rests.

Ex. 11

Sometimes the rest gets replaced with a percussive sound. Think of it like a “crash” into the strings: Your palm lands on the strings and the pick hits right after. It’s fine for the pick to hit just a couple of strings. This is a good way to mimic certain songs. Check out Ben E. King’s “Stand by Me.” There’s no guitar on that recording but you can emulate the percussion by playing Ex. 12.

Ex. 12

Ex. 13 is a good generic rock groove. I think of this as something akin to a basic drumbeat. This strum is useful whenever you need a driving groove.

Ex. 13

Being able to do a steady, eighth-note strum with a good feel and stamina takes time, so be patient! Practicing with a metronome or drum beat (there’s tons of smart phone apps and loops on YouTube) is great for developing your skills, so definitely work that in. Have fun!