Showing posts with label guitar reference. Show all posts
Showing posts with label guitar reference. Show all posts

Monday, August 4, 2008

My Experience Attending National Guitar Workshop

In a previous post I mentioned I was prepping to attend National Guitar Workshop and I would report back. That time is now, err… it was some weeks ago actually. To keep things simple I’ll say up front that it was worth the money for the experience as well as the improvement to my playing I got as a result.

The workshop was at the Blair School of Music on Nashville’s Vanderbilt Campus. After the usual logistical glitches that can occur things got rolling with a short orientation. All the instructors played on stage and showed their stuff following the styles for the sessions they would be teaching.

Since the venue is a school of music we had a well appointed classroom with a piano as well as a fully stocked sound system cabinet. The instructor, Jeff McErlain, kicked things off by having us all trade solos against a blues progression to determine where we were in our playing and we went at it from there.

One of my initial concerns on registering was I would be the oldest person there. They assured me I wasn’t and we had around a 40 year age range in my class. There are lots of opportunities to interact with players from the other classes and at dinner that evening I was able visit with lots of other middle age guys with variations of the “how many guitars does one person need” t-shirt; one active musician I traded notes with had 37 guitars. Where was that money when we really needed it, back in our teens!

Improvement to My Playing
My main attraction to Roots Rock was to get exposure to styles beyond the blues that I’ve focused on to date. The focus was on:

· Use of double stops
· Make use of your thumb on the fretting hand
· Use your fingers as well as the pick on your picking hand
· Improve your comping abilities through use of inverted triads
· Learn some theory to get out of the box on improvisation

I record myself so I can do some critial listening and gauge progress. A couple days into the course I recorded solos against some simple progressions and compared those to some I recorded before the class and noted an immediate improvement. My improvisation didn’t get flashier in two days but the note selection and phrasing were more interesting. My summation is that my playing improved because I learned about straight forward things that if you work on can really improve your overall sound.

The NGW workshops include guest artists and in the case of Roots Rock it was David Grissom. He does session work in Nashville and keeps a complete setup stored in town when he comes in from Austin to work. He setup shop in one of the auditoriums with this rig, took a range of questions from the students, and played some music along with Jeff McErlain, our instructor.

Some of the takeaways from this session is it ain’t easy making money playing music. If you look at some of the photos you will see there were 10 plus guitars plus two or three acoustics stored in a separate case. In a studio situation you have to be prepared to deliver what the producer is looking for and quickly. That means a wide range of gear even is something only gets used once or twice a year. Another takeaway was David Grissom’s answer to a question of how do you go about getting to where he is to which he answered “be ready to give up everything else”

As for this hobbyist, I don’t plan on giving up my day job so I’m out of the running. However, the NGW experience is open for all age ranges as well as all experience levels. Give it a try, you might like it too!

Friday, April 25, 2008

Remember Transcription Study in Your Practice Routine

I used transcriptions when I first started learning the guitar to try and duplicate some of my favorite vintage rock tunes. I go back and play some of these tunes along with backing tracks for exercise but find I’m not that happy with how they sound anymore.

I think it is a combination of a more discriminating ear with experience and my lack of technique and understanding when I learned these tunes originally. So, I've started going back to studying these transcriptions. This little exercise revealed a treasure trove of improvement opportunities.

I was really shocked at how many nuances I had missed in learning these initially. Also, I saw instances where I just did not have the technique to duplicate sections as written and evolved fakery approaches to get by. With some review and changes to how I played my favorites I was able to get quick and dramatic improvement.

I’m not advocating that duplication is my only goal as we all want to evolve our own sound. However, when trying to learn a particular technique or lick I want to learn it well and not just have my ear pretend it sounds right. If you are of a similar bent I recommend you make studying transcriptions a steady part of your guitar practice diet.

Don't have handy transcriptions; check out Guitar World Tabs.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Tone Tips and Tricks for the Fender Hot Rod Deluxe

The Unofficial Fender Hot Rod Deluxe Owners Guide
A coworker forwarded me a link to the Unofficial Hot Rod Deluxe Owner’s Guide the other day and I took a look. Lots of interesting content but the bonus for me was an excerpt on tone tips from the original manual, which gave me new appreciation for this amp.

The current Hot Rod Deluxe manual does not include much information on how to get the most out of this amp. This site though is packed with useful tips including tone settings. The original manual excerpt pictured above, lists varied tone descriptions and the amp settings (drive channel, treble, presence, etc) required to achieve each. This bit of information provides a great foundation to start experimenting.

I warmed up my Hot Rod Deluxe, gave these settings a try, and learned just how much untapped potential the Hot Rod Deluxe has. The typical comment I hear is that the overdrive channel is useless, which was my experience. These settings gave me the insight on how to get great tone from both the normal and drive channels using single coil and humbucker type pickups to bring this amp alive. It feels like having a brand new toy!

Give these settings a try and see what you think.

Saturday, April 5, 2008

Baby Boomer Wannabe Guitarists: Check Out Free Guitar Lessons

I’ve always stressed the importance of guitar lessons, especially for those of us with a few hours on the clock; not because we’re slow on the uptake, we just want to make up for lost time. One of my readers recommended Free Guitar Lessons by Watch & Learn as a site that’s working great for him. I spent some time this morning looking it over.

I felt in a Bluegrass mood so I checked out flatpicking and learned some basic Bluegrass rhythms and improvisation. This is a great site, especially if you are starting out and overwhelmed with the options. If you find an area of interest they offer premium downloads where you can get more in depth from there.

Another area that should be mentioned is their Guitar Jam Tracks section. My first instructor set me up with “Let’s Jam” by Peter Vogl right away and it was invaluable to learning the rudiments of improvisation, ear training, and staying with the beat. Another benefit of the CD is the suggestions they provide for how to improvise over each track.

If you’re starting out and trying to get your bearings or been playing for awhile and want to discover new territory, give this site a look.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Why it is Important to Learn New Songs

I often emphasize the enjoyment derived from learning new songs by my favorite artists. However, this is not an endorsement that your guitar playing goals should simply be copying your favorites. Instead, this follows Isaac Newton's "If I have seen further it is by standing on ye shoulders of Giants" approach to maximum guitar progress in minimum time.

Learning new songs keeps things interesting and provides a great toolbox of guitar licks, which are all beneficial. When you think about it though, the reason you have a technical interest in a given artist is that he, she, or they got your attention by paying their dues and building up a unique style over time.

What you're really doing by learning songs from these artists then is sampling the end product of years of refinement; just without the years. For example, Jimi Hendrix, saw further through people like Buddy Guy, whose style and showmanship he studied intently.

Think of it as learning faster by standing on the shoulders of giants. If it worked for Isaac Newton and Jimi Hendrix it should work for us aging rockers wanting to make up for lost time.

>>Related Articles
Guitar Practice: More Benefits of Backing Tracks
Getting the Most out of Guitar Practice: Variety is the Spice of Life
Guitar Resources: Technique

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Guitar Magazines From the Rocking Eighties

A friend of mine from work loaned me one of his back issues of "Guitar for the Practicing Musician" from 1987. Before returning it I thought this would make for a good post. Welcome to the Rocking Eighties!

Jimi Hendrix is on the cover but he's on the cover of most guitar magazines today so that doesn't really date the issue. The hairdos of Night Ranger on the other hand is a dead giveaway that we're in the 80s!

I included some pages below that outline the hottest new gear, an example of an ad for amps (a lot like the amp ads today), and some readers choice awards.

If this piques your interest, you can find back issues for sale on the Internet. Also, Guitar World now has a viewer for back issues on their website including issue number 1 from 1980!

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Guitar Tricks for Building Calluses

I see questions around building calluses come up a lot and remember my initial experiences trying out guitars. Some felt better to my finger tips and others not so much. In hindsight I know the differences were due to string gauge and action. To quickly build your calluses with less pain, make sure you start with lower gauge strings and action on your guitar.

String gauge represents the diameter of a string. You may hear an old salt say, “I use 10s”. What they’re saying is that they use strings where the high E string is .010 inches in diameter. In a set of 10s the low E string will have a diameter of .046 inches. There is more to this than just the gauge though.

Strings with higher gauge will have a higher tension when tuned. While there are many advantages to higher gauge such as tone and sustain (Stevie Ray Vaughn’s unique tone came in part from very high gauge strings), a beginner will not appreciate this due to the difficulty and pain associated with fretting these strings much less learning bending techniques. Frustration increases further if the action is high.

Action is just the term for the height of the strings above the frets. In one of my first posts I outlined how I had taken a run at the guitar back in high school without success. My first guitar was an acoustic of dubious quality with an action around an inch off the frets. If only we had affordable high quality import lines back then!

So, for your callus formation period, I would recommend D’Addario EXL120s or other brands with similar characteristics. These are a super light gauge string where the high E string starts at .009 inches in diameter. As far as action goes, lower the strings (your guitar user manual or a wealth of guides on the Internet will outline how) to the point it is comfortable but not so far you get excessive string buzzing. Action is more of a personal preference anyway so you are not violating any guitar laws by doing this :-).

Once you’ve built your calluses (two or three weeks) you can elect to make changes to your guitar setup from there based on your evolving technique. Most importantly, rock out!

>>Related Articles
· The Essential Callus Building Tips
· Midlife Crisis: Learn to Play the Guitar
· Guitar Gear: Import Lines Make Playability More Affordable Than Ever
· Learning the Guitar: Waterfall or Iterative Method

Friday, January 11, 2008

Guitar Gear: Invest In Strap Locks

On my first visit to a Guitar Center I asked the salesman why the ratty looking guitars displayed in a protected area had such high prices. He went on to explain the art of aging new guitars to the extent they look like touring veterans. If you want to avoid unintentional aging of your nice new axe though, I would recommend strap locks.

I’ve been playing awhile now and do not think twice about an accessory like this. I never heard of them starting out though. That is until I had a brand new guitar pop off the strap and come crashing to the floor when I reached over to answer the phone. Bummer!

At a subsequent lesson, my instructor filled me in on the whole strap lock thing after I told him the reason for the new divots on my guitar. Turns out he had strap locks on his guitar; I just hadn’t noticed the finer detail whilst sweating the details of music theory and guitar technique. He recommended and I ended up with guitar strap locks from Schaller.

If you look at the picture you see they are pretty foolproof. You remove your original strap buttons and install the Schaller buttons. You will likely find that the screws supplied are too small so I reused the original screws from my guitar. You may have to grind down the screw head so it fits into the new strap button.

Attach the strap locks to each end of your strap; the supplied washer and nut enable you to attach them securely. The strap locks connect securely from there because they have a spring loaded pin; you pull out the pin, slide the lock onto the button, and release the pin, which snaps into the strap button. This thing won’t come loose.

From there you can fling your axe every which way but loose or even answer the phone without fear of it coming off!

>>Related Articles
· Guitar Resources: Gear Fundamentals
· Middle-Aged Rocker: How to Avoid Guitar Store Angst
· Guitar Strap Revelation

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Guitar Tabs: Guitar World Releasing Their Tabs Online and More

Transcriptions are one reason I eagerly anticipate each issue of Guitar World. But, I always wished I could easily access transcriptions done before I started subscribing to the magazine. Well, they’ve done it and more!

Guitar World Tabs is organized around a social networking model and provides interaction both with features of the site itself as well as other users. For example, while the magazine provides its own premium tabs, users of the site can also submit their own tabs, videos, and comments (both text as well as ratings).

Navigation is managed through a slick interface like the Cover Flow view in iTunes. You can search for content alphabetically, by top rated, most viewed, and newest.

Studying transcriptions of your favorite artists gives you exposure to a wealth of technique and theory you can use to develop your own style. Guitar World is providing a great service to help you on your way; check it out!

>>Related Articles
Learn to Play the Guitar: How to Keep it Fresh
Guitar Resources: Technique
Guitar Tone: How to Duplicate Your Favorites

Sunday, January 6, 2008

Connections: How to Create a Simple Home Studio

I was talking to my next door neighbor yesterday about how he's doing on his guitar playing and he outlined how he used his Apple Laptop and Garageband to create rhythm backing tracks that he uses to practice improvisation. Bravo, I said! I have several posts on how valuable this can be for your progress on the guitar. What occurred to me though and what I have not really emphasized in previous related posts is how simple and inexpensive creating your own home studio really is.

At its most basic you need a computer, recording software, audio interface (hardware/software combination that you plug your guitar into), and of course your guitar. I have included a simple layout of what I currently use (post recovery from a recent hardware failure of my previous PC) for each of these components to record my guitar playing.

· Computer - HP Laptop; Pavilion dv6000.
· Recording Software - Ableton Live Version 6.
· Audio Interface - PODxt from Line6. The drivers that come with the unit enable you to connect it to your computer through USB, which gives you a high quality audio connection.
· I use a pair of Toneport headphones from Bose to monitor the audio. This way you can hear your own playing as well as any tracks you might be playing back from your recording software (or simply a metronome if your software supports that feature) at the same time.

More than likely, you already have everything except for the audio interface and possibly the recording software unless you use a Mac, which comes with GarageBand already loaded. For the audio interface just do an Internet search on "audio interface USB" and you will see a vast array of options starting around $30. As for recording software, I would highly recommend Ableton Live given my experience with it to date if you do not have GarageBand on the Mac. Or, if you want to further minimize cost, you could download Audacity, which is open source software.

That is pretty much it other than rocking out and recording it for prosperity!

Saturday, January 5, 2008

The Girls of Guitar World

I started playing the guitar on my 50th birthday. Guitar World became an early reference for me and I eagerly look forward to each issue to this day. I do have to admit though that I am conflicted about “The Girls of Guitar World.”

What I’m referring to are the fetching Guitar World readers and models along with their axes that grace the pages of the magazine and their great website. Is this just a cheap marketing gimmick that someone with my years of maturity should know better than to succumb to?

Then, the other day I am reading my software industry trade publications and realize ads in these magazines feature the same sort of fetching models draped over gear like hardware based load balancers and optical storage devices.

What? Then I remember that everything from drill bits to insurance is marketed like this. Internet technology, no matter how much we love it, does not have a rock and roll legacy. Part of that legacy has always included fetching rockers. If anyone can lay claim to being a part of the rock and roll legacy, Guitar World published since July of 1980 sure can. So, I need to save my conflicted emotions for those cheap marketing gimmicks rather than Guitar World.

Can't wait for the next issue!

Let's Rock!