Learn Electric Guitar

12th November

online-guitar-course2Thinking back, I can vividly remember how bad I wanted to learn electric guitar skills. You know – probably just your average teenager at the time, with a deep passion and burning desire to become a great rock star and chick magnet… And who knows, have I had access to the remarkable tools available today, like the web based Jamorama guitar course or the superb, free Beginner Video Lessons shown to your right, then perhaps the dream would have become a reality?

My parents, bless them, tried more than once to convince me it was for my on good to learn classical music and study piano or violin (ouch). “Proper music”, that’s what I do tend to remember they called it back then.

I did in fact try that “un-cool” piano for quite some time – more to please my folks than anything else. However, all I really wanted was to grow my hair long, buy a Gibson Les Paul guitar and play loud riffs all day and all night long. Soaring lead guitar – oh, yeah! Naturally, just the kind of stuff parents didn’t approve of at all.


That ol’ beat-up six string

Without telling anyone but my closest friends, I borrowed an old German Hofner guitar – from where, I can’t quite recall – and began to teach myself guitar whenever my parents were not at home. In the beginning, I tried to pick up songs from the radio or from records.

Learning electric guitarI could sit for hours just trying to figure out simple songs, basic chords and licks on that beat-up, old guitar wreck. Actually, like the song goes, I literally “played it till my fingers bled”. Small wonder when you combine an untrained wanna-be rock star going for hours on end, real heavy strings and a guitar with an action that would make a classical guitar player green with envy. I suppose it was just sheer luck I managed to avoid getting tendinitis…

After a while I hooked up with a couple of guys who were a little more experienced than me, and I was in “advanced guitar lessons” heaven. Thinking back, it was still basic stuff. But hey, these dudes played lead guitar! At the time, I thought this was way cooler than playing your average rhythm, chords and riffs stuff, and I tried to suck up those lead guitar lessons like there was no tomorrow.

Getting my first proper electric guitar – a Japanese Gibson copy – helped getting things up to speed. With that old Hofner wreck I probably never would have managed to learn electric guitar properly.

Eventually, we (myself and one my guitar allied) formed a band. My parents had eventually, and very reluctantly, accepted my stubborn vision of becoming the next Jimmy Page (yeah, right…) and from that moment on, Chopin and Brahms was a lost case. A guitar case on the other hand… I could see myself getting a handle on that.

The leading man

As luck would have it, my friend was a better guitar player than me (he taught me stuff, remember). Consequently, I was delegated to keeping the rhythm going, while he took those enviable lead playing chores. At the time, I didn’t fancy that much, so how can I talk about luck?

Well, years later I found that my friend never quite had mastered the basic – and really needed – skill of playing songs. So he gave up and drifted along to other things, while I kept plugging away; perhaps not your bona fide riff master, but quite capable as years went by.

Many years later, I even managed to save up money for a real Gibson Les Paul custom, and I haven’t looked back since. Shoot, I even grew to love classical music through the guitar. It was said I managed to make my old man proud in the end.

The moral of the story

If you intend to teach yourself guitar, then I strongly suggest you A. learn the art of playing songs … even if the riffs and solos is what you urge, and B. that you play with other people in a duo, group, ensemble or band – what ever tickles your fancy.

With all the brilliant tools available today you can save years on your learning curve. You have any number of DVDs in all styles and a host of web solutions. The earlier mentioned Crash Course Muso (Beginner Video Lessons), or Jamorama is perfect for beginners and intermediates (I would probably been able to kill for something like those two…), or the way cool Guitar Superstars, which is suitable for beginners, intermediate and advanced player alike. I have tested and used all three of these programs extensively, and they are all worth their weight in gold. Great time savers! The first one has the added benefit of offering free lessons.

Needless to say, your best option would be to pay for private tuition. This can be costly, however, and you would need to find someone who “talks your language” as well. Not all teachers are created equal!

What ever you choose to learn to play electric or acoustic guitar, do seek qualified advice and tuition! It will save you both time and (consequently) money.

Who knows, if I had laid my hands some of the tools you guys have at your fingertips these days, maybe I would have become a chick magnet and rock guitar hero? Probably not quite. Becoming a better guitar player in far less time, on the other hand? Definitely!

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Best Electric Guitar Strings

13th September


What are the best strings for electric guitar?

Best electric guitar stringsOne of the most common question I get about electric guitars – from beginners as well as more advanced players – is this: “What are the best electric guitar strings?”

Before we can attempt to answer this question, we will have a brief discussion about guitar strings in general.

I would however first of all like to draw your attention to a really magnificent string guide by ‘Professor String’ – Think You Know Guitar Strings?

This excellent, no fluff and to the point guide is hands down the best I’ve seen if you want to know more about the subject. And why wouldn’t you?

Any down sides? The only one I can think of is that the author doesn’t directly say which strings are best… Apart from that – top notch in all areas!

If you want to be better armed with knowledge about guitar strings, then do yourself a favor and check this guitar string guide out today. This could really help you get the best out of your guitar and eventually make it so much more enjoyable and efficient to learn electric guitar.

The types of guitars and guitar strings

There are in general three major types of guitar strings, each designed to get the best out of their respective instruments. Strings designed for acoustic steel string (flat top) guitars; there’s nylon strings and finally strings designed for electric guitars.

Rather than going into great detail about the various types and all the various upsides and downsides of strings for acoustic guitars (classic/nylon string guitars and flat top/steel string guitars), I encourage you to get hold of the thorough string guide by professor String.

However, there are some major points that needs to be addressed here in reference to electric guitars.

Nylon guitar strings

Nylon (or its predecessor, gut strings) are designed for nylon string guitars/classical guitars – period. I can’t even begin to count the number of times people have asked if they can put these nylon strings on steel string guitars or even on electrics.

The tension in these strings is far too moderate to properly drive the heavier braced tops on steel string acoustics + you can’t fasten them easily on these guitars.

It goes without saying really, that the material in these strings have no magnetic property what so ever. Hence they are no good to use on electric guitars.

Acoustic steel strings:

The windings on these acoustic strings are usually in some form of bronze or phosphor bronze. These are made to enhance the acoustic sound, but they lack the magnetic properties you will need to have fully functional with magnetic guitar pickups.

The tension in these strings are much too high for the lighter construction (bracing, top, tuners, neck and saddle) of a classical/nylon string guitar. So again you are out of luck as far as electric usage goes (electric acoustic guitars is of course another matter).

Electric guitar strings:

Strings designed for use with a magnetic guitar pickup incorporate alloys such as steel and nickel. These materials don’t sound very good on acoustic steel string guitars but they do work well with the magnetic field in single coil or humbucker guitar pickups.

The best guitar strings:

Some will argue that it really doesn’t matter which type of strings you put on your electric guitar, since that argue that there are only a handful of factories making strings.

As Professor String outlines in his book, this is far from the truth. There are in fact a great number of string factories – smaller and larger – in operation today. He also argues that it is indeed a great deal of variation in the quality of many of the brands available today.

Unfortunately, as previously mentioned, he does not give any hints (apart from a very vague mention of one particular guitar brand) as to what the better makes are.

Personally, I tend to prefer D’addario strings on most of my electric guitars. These seems to work very well for me, plus they have always been in tune intonation wise as far as I have been able to tell.

You will need to make up your own mind and test some of the various brands for yourself. But trust me, you will be so much wiser after having read the previous mentioned book!

Coated guitar strings:

One of the things you may consider is to test out a set of coated electric guitar strings. I use Elixir Nanoweb strings on some guitars and they are usually working very good. Others swear by Cleartone strings. I haven’t tested these enough to offer my recommendations though.

The very thin polymer coating on these strings makes them last quite a bit longer and they don’t sound quite as dull as some other coated strings can.

String gauge:

One thing you need to be aware of is the issue of string gauges. Gauge is a measurement of the thickness of strings in thousands of an inch. When you hear numbers like 9 or 10 being mentioned, they are in fact referring to 0.009 and 0.010 (9/thousands and 10/thousands of inches).

Keeping it simplified, lighter/thinner strings have less mass and less volume than thicker strings. The upside is that they are easier to bend and fret.

Heavier strings are harder to fret and bend, but they tend to give more sound (and some times also sustain) than lighter strings. The higher tension is usually more important on acoustic guitars, and you will typically find that heavier strings are used on acoustic steel strings as opposed to electric guitars.

So what is the right gauge of strings for you? Unfortunately this is also one of these things you will have to work out for yourself. Here are some pointers though:

Playing slide guitar? If so, then you will probably need heavier strings and also raise the action on the guitar.

Are you tuning down? It that’s the case, then you will also want to try heavier strings. Be aware that heavier strings alone may not be enough if you tune way down. Some times a longer neck scale is also needed to keep the guitar in tune.

Lots of tapping and finger bends? If you are more of a typical “shredder”, then you may want to go for lighter strings and perhaps even adjust the action (string height) accordingly – setting it a bit lower.

Old style rock and roll or rock-a-billy guitar? Some players of these styles of music prefer the older type of flat wound or the compromise of half wound strings (also termed ground wound or pressure wound). These types of strings – the usual today is regular round wound strings – is some times even preferred by slide guitar players or those who play lap steel guitar.

Adjusting your guitar to the gauge and tuning you use:

When you have decided what string gauge you want to use or try out, and what tuning you want to play in, you will typically need to have your guitar set-up properly in order to get the best out of your strings and your playing. You can read more about that here.

Here’s some great tips about electric guitar string gauges from the good folks at Next Level Guitar. Their course is as you probably know highly recommended:

And of course, speaking of Professor String, here’s a video of the guy demonstrating the hand crafted way of making strings. And in case you wonder, the shades are there to protect the eyes – it’s not some attempt to look cool:

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How Long Does It Take To Learn Guitar

11th September


Learning electric guitar – how long does it take?

How long does it take to learn guitar?Answering this frequently asked question is almost like answering “how long is a piece of string?”

There are so many variables involved that it is close to impossible to say how long it will take for any individual to get up to a certain level.

And also, what will it say to having learned something after all? Is this a level where you have the minimum of basics down – like knowing a few chords and being able to strum along to a simple song? Or, is it more like having mastered the task at hand?

If you are more thinking along the lines of having mastered the art of playing guitar then a likely answer to “how long does it take to learn guitar?” will be something along the lines of “all your life … and then some”.

Keep it real – keep it simple!

Some of the best things you can do to yourself is to keep things in perspective – I call this to keep it real. Such perspectives will include the realizations that A. Learning guitar takes an investment of time and effort, and that B. There are no short-cuts.

You will inevitably also be aware of the fact that it is easier to become good at anything when you start at a young age. Does this mean that you can not become proficient or learn guitar at all if you start at a later stage? Not at all! The only thing to remember is that it likely will take more efforts on your parts – again: remember to keep it real :-)

It should also be fairly obvious that the more concentrated effort you put into it (noodling around and just browsin for something to learn i not a concentrated effort), the better off you’ll be.

When you want to learn electric guitar (or any type of guitar for that matter), keeping it simple involves doing the steps which will ensure you get the most out of your time and efforts. This again revolves around the points discussed below.

Doing it all by yourself?

One of the most persistent myths is how “easy” it is to teach yourself guitar.  Is it possible? For some folks, absolutely. However, let us look at the flip side of the coin.

Is this really the best investment of your time and efforts to try and piece together this highly complex task on you own? I dare say no, not at all. Also, browsing through all the free stuff available online and picking up bits and pieces of information from friends here and there is no way to guarantee that you’ll avoid picking up bad habits and counter productive information along the way.

Furthermore, this “jumping about” and “take it as it comes” way of learning is lacking the all important structure which is needed if you want to make sure that you will succeed with the best possible result in the shortest amount of time.

Getting help – the easy and cost effective way

Make no mistake about it. The best and most efficient way, bar none, to help you reach your goals is to take lessons from a qualified and dedicated guitar teacher. However, this is also the most expensive route to take. You will also have to find someone who is somewhat on the same wavelength as yourself, someone you will trust, respect and like.

A good compromise is to take one of the better online courses available, such as Guitar Superstars, Next Level Guitar or Guitar Success. You will be amazed by the content these course have and how inexpensive they tend to be. This is a far, far better investment of time and energy than going through all the hoops to try and find some golden nuggets for free.

Setting your guitar playing goals

Another way of making sure you learn guitar with easy and efficiency is to set goals for yourself. From the perspective of learning how to play guitar, setting goals has two sides as I see it. One is how often and how you practice guitar. The other is what you intend to learn in a given period of time.

It is without a doubt far easier to achieve something when you have a clear goal of when you will have achieved it! Just ask any athlete. If you say to yourself that “by Christmas I shall have learned all the open style chords and the basic barre chords”, then chances are much better you will do just that. Just to remind you – please keep it real :-)

As far as practice schedule goes, you will again be best of by keeping it real as well as simple. Set a time which you know you can have as yours – 20 minutes, half an hour, one hour – close the door and make that a no interruption time! Work on the things you want to learn and keep at it. This is in essence the only way to become good at anything.

The tools of the trade

Having a properly adjusted guitar which is a breeze to play will ensure that you “stick to your guns” and don’t give up on your dream of learning the guitar. Far too many people give up simply because they forget the importance of having a good beginner electric guitar which has been set up properly. You can read more about the importance of a proper guitar set-up here.

The “final piece of the puzzle” (if you learn on an electric guitar) is to have some sort of of practice amp or practice tool to plug into and maybe even jam along to. What is the best tools for your need? Hard to say for sure, but you can search more here for the best practice amp. Just be aware that you can also practice your guitar plugged into a smart phone, with software on your computer, through headphones and a multi-effects units, as well as with a practice amp.

Sounding off

Rather than asking “How long does it take to learn guitar?”, it may probably be a far better idea to ask yourself “How do I make sure I’ll stick to my guitar playing for the time it takes to learn it?”

Hopefully, you will have picked up some tips above. Still, in the end, I tend to believe the best answer to that is found within yourself. Just be certain about this simple fact: If you want it bad enough and you give it enough time and effort, you will achieve it!

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Strumming Patterns

3rd August


Strumming patterns for guitar beginners

One of the very first things – if not the first thing – you want to wrap your hands around as you begin to learn electric guitar, is to understand and be comfortable with some basic guitar strumming patterns.

And sure enough, one of the most common questions you can come across on places such as Yahoo Answers, goes something along these lines: “Can someone please help me with the strumming pattern to … I can’t figure it out.” (included is one or more songs the asker wants you to explain).

Often times the same people have tried to decipher a guitar tab for the same song/s without getting any closer to nailing the fundamental strum pattern of the tune.

Before we go any further with our guitar strumming lessons, there are two things first to be aware of…

The problems with guitar tabs

Tabs (short for tablature) for guitar can be understand as a simplified notation system and a visual representation of the notes on the fretboard. When done correctly by someone with experience and knowledge, a tab can provide you with a good, basic overview of how to play a song.  So far so good.

However, there are at least to things which often creates problems for a beginner on guitar. One is the fact that guitar tabs many times have been written by people who doesn’t “quite” get it right. At times there are so many mistakes in the tabs you find, it is not even funny.

Another thing is that the tabs miss one very important thing, the rhythmical values – the element of time and timing. These are things which is integrated in proper musical notation.

In short, you will either need to learn how to pick up things and play by ear, and also learn proper musical notation. Tabs will only get you this far, and can in fact become a real stumbling block as you begin to explore the guitar.

You have to hear as well as see the strumming pattern!

The thing that often amazes me, is how some folks think they can fully explain a rhythmic figure in words – like down, down, up, up, down, up. Seriously, how do you explain rhythm in words? It will fail miserably … unless of course it is accompanied by the proper visual and auditory representation (sight and sound) from a video or guitar teacher :-)

Picking up a basic strumming lesson

Here are some things to get you on your way to learn guitar strumming.  First pick a song which has clear sound as well as picture. It should also be pretty straight forward, slow to mid tempo, without too many instruments and complicated vocal arrangements and rhythm or tempo changes.

Now, let us assume you have learned the guitar chords to the song and can play them effortlessly. Without being concerned at all about chords or notes, begin to listen to the rhythm and how the main rhythm guitar is being strummed. Now, while you mute the strings with your fretting hand, use your pick and try to follow that rhythm! Just remember, no notes, just the pick making rhythmic figures across the strings…

If you are uncertain or confused at this point, then simply watch the great, first video below from the good folks at Next Level Guitar – it’s very informative and to the point. Oh, and even though some of this stuff is played on an acoustic, it is equally important and may just as well be done on an electric guitar :-)

Now, as you tag along, you may begin to notice how there are certain accents or rhythmic shifts- places where the chord or notes seems to be hit a little harder? For instance (in a basic 4/4 song pattern), is the first beat being more accented? This is very common… Again you will notice how this may be done in the below video.

Here are more informative and easy to follow guitar strumming lessons form the good folks at Next Level Guitar, remember to check them out when you have the time! There really is a huge amount of good, solid stuff to be picked up there.

More guitar strumming tips

Some other points to remember is to use the arm more than the wrist when you do basic strumming patterns. However, you need to be loose in the wrist so that you also involve the wrist in the strumming! If your arm and your wrist is rigid, then your strum patterns will be stiff and rigid too…

If you begin to be tired as you play along, then just take a short brake  and shake loose. It helps to let your arms hang down while you shake your hands and fingers lightly for a period of time. Remember also to do some fingers and hand stretching exercises form time to time!

The pick should be held firmly, but not overly tight, between your thumb and first finger. Too tight and you become rigid and tired fast – too loose and you’ll likely drop the pick and also have problems driving that steady rhythm home. Like everything else, this is a matter of practice over a period of time.

Like one of the above videos mention, you will eventually need to learn how to dampen the strings. Both hands can dampen the strings in various ways, including also palm muting. String damping techniques is used amongst other things to create accents and variations, and thereby interest, to your guitar strumming.

Keep it simple! Remember, some of the patterns used to strum a guitar in certain song can be very complex and have many shifts and variations. Don’t be afraid to keep things more basic and to simplify things if you get overwhelmed or confused!

Happy strumming and humming :-)

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Left Handed Guitars

30th May


Left with a right handed guitar?

left-handed-guitarsPlease raise your dominant hand all budding electric guitar players out there! Good, I see we have a few who is left handed. Anything else would have been quite a surprise. Oh yes, feel free to take your hand down now :-)

Through the years I have met quite a few left handed guitar players, many of whom were struggling with either finding a decent lefty guitar, or biting the bullet and adopting to a regular right handed one.

Then you had a number of lefty guitarists, who bought a right handed instrument and converted it into a left handed one. Possible? Absolutely. The best solution? Not very likely.

In the following, we will take a look at the various options and potential obstacles you have as a lefthanded guitar player. And more importantly: Is it really needed to go shopping for dedicated left handed guitars?

A good left handed electric guitar

If you really insist on getting a good lefty, then at least take a look at the Agile left handed guitars. As you probably know by now, I’m a huge fan of these guitars – moderately priced and an almost insane value for your money.

Apart from these instruments, many makers have a wide variety of left handed guitars you may hunt down. That said, there are far less guitars being made of the lefty variety, simply because right handed guitar players are in the overwhelming majority.

The flip side of the (guitar) coin

One option that is tempting to a number of players, is to modify a right handed guitar to play “up side down”. While this has been done by many players, including giants such as Jimmy Hendrix who flipped his Fender Statocaster over and let it rip.

Very few of this category of left handed players used a right handed instrument without altering it. Without any modifications, the strings will be reversed also.

The common thing to do in this case is to reverse the order of the strings, so that you still have the low E-string on top. But before you say “cool!” and merrily hop along off to do some guitar flipping 101, consider this:

- The guitar nut will have to be changed
- The bridge and each bridge saddle has to be changed
- The controls will end up on the top
- The output jack will be in an awkward place
- The cutaways may no longer give you access to the upper frets
- Any vibrato unit will have the arm upside down
- Strap button placement needs to be altered
- The balance of the guitar changes, some times significantly

On some electric guitars, it is quite easy to alter the bridge and the bridge saddles. On others, like the ones which uses the Gibson tune-o-matic bridge, you’ll have to do some hefty modifications to the guitar in order to have the instrument play in tune.

Is this really worth all the hassle? The answer, in my right handed and biased opinion, is plain and simply a resounding no.

Seen many left handed violin players lately?

Consider this: There are quite a number of left handed violin, viola and cello players. Where are they, or how come they don’t use left handed instruments?

Also, don’t you think that the mere fact that a left handed violin player can handle a regular violin without a problem should tell us something of importance here?

When a real complicated instrument like this can be handled the “other way around”, I dare say it is no harder for a left handed guitarist to play a regular right handed guitar. I would even go so far as claiming you’re at an obvious advantage! You lucky duck :-)

Let your stronger hand do the heavy work!

If you start out with a regular, right handed instrument from day one, then you can in fact let your dominant hand (your left, right?) take care of the most difficult task, namely the fretting.

Also, since your left hand will be the strongest, it is an advantage to use that hand for the task which requires the largest amount of force – again it’s the fretting.

I can’t begin to count all the times I have had claims from left handed people who wants to learn electric guitar, saying something to the effect: “I need a left handed guitar, it feels so awkward to play right handed!”

Next thing you know, they go and purchase a lefty guitar … and guess what? They soon realize that it isn’t easier to play a left handed guitar. It is the act of learning guitar in the first place that is hard.

I’ll leave you with this train of though… Late, great Jeff Healey was legally blind, and as we all know he was an awesome and inspirational guitar player. Healey adopted a unique style of playing with the guitar placed in his lap while he played with his fingers. Many say this is simply because no one told him how he was supposed to play the guitar.

In any case, when you hear this sadly missed giant play “While My Guitar Gently Weep” with his guitar placed like this – don’t you think the rest of us can at least adopt to playing our guitar the other way around? You’ll be the judge of that for yourself.

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Overcoming Stage Fright

24th May


Learning by doing

overcoming-stage-frightOne of the best ways to educate yourself in the complex art and skills of guitar playing is without a doubt to play with other musicians or perform in front of an audience.

When you interact with others, you learn to listen, adapt and improvise. You also get a better feel for rhythm and tempo, volume adjustments and playing for the song rather than to “impress” with your skills. The single most important guitar lesson is perhaps this: To understand the art of standing back – when not to play or what not to play :-)

Sure, you can accomplish quite a lot of these things while you play with others in your basement or garage, or in front of a few selected friends. However, there’s even more to gain from bringing your act to a live stage – either alone with your guitar or with a band or group.

Causes of stage fright

“Hang on just a second! Just the thought of performing gives me the shivers,” I can almost hear some of you shouting – and rightfully so. The thought of stepping up to the platform and delivering a speech, playing to a group of people, doing an audition or being on a live stage can be enough to send even the bravest amongst us for cover.

Is public speaking natural for an individual? Heck not – I dare say that fear of public speaking or entertaining is far more natural. Deep down, most of us (perhaps all of us) are flock animals. Only a select few amongst us is comfortable to take the spotlight like it’s second nature.

This fear of performing has basically two sides to it – the external and the internal. The external is the situation itself – the lack of control; the unfamiliar setting and the pressure to deliver the goods to a group of people you don’t know, the feeling of being measured and tested.

The internal is the set of physical, emotional and cognitive (though) processes which seems to give you the jitters – literally.

The belly of the beast?

First, Let’s look at the situation objectively. Is an audience there to  stare you down, laugh at your efforts, criticize your guitar playing, frown upon any bum notes, smile at your week guitar sound and talk about your “obvious beginner guitar skills”? Of course not! They are there to have a good time.

And you know what. Here’s a little “secret” which is also explained in one of the videos below. The audience wants to help you; they want you to succeed! Why is that? Simply because total failure is embarrassing to watch… So just go in there and play your guitar loud and proud! Apart from the occasional ignorant village idiot (there’s at least one in every crowd), people really want the best – for you as well as themselves.

And that punk who always seems to find some negative thing to say about your performance? Just smile or ignore him. He’s just an envious and jealous figure really not worthy of your energy.

Practice makes perfect

The more prepared you are, the better things usually works out. This goes with everything: From having spares of everything (strings, picks, effects, guitars, leads, fuses etc.) almost down to an extra guitar amp – to having a well rehearsed set under your skin.

It is vital to acknowledge that your not there to be impressive or to show off. If you do, then you forget to focusing on the two things that matters, 1. the task (your songs), and 2. the audience.

Stick to your game plan!

When you’re only focusing on the task at hand, which is to play the guitar just like you have down to a T, then everything else seems to fall into place almost like magic.

So again, forget about doing impressive new stuff or showing off your deadly guitar tapping skills while doing back flips. Your there to play electric guitar, remember? When you take care of the songs and lean on the things you have prepared, then things usually clicks into place.

What if everything bombs?

Another wise saying from the video below is to put things in perspective. It’s just music, you know. If things go wrong, then so what? Just smile, be cool about it and walk on.

As long as you care for doing your best and try to be there for the audience, then people will forgive even the most crazy mistakes. And you know what? Most people don’t realize it if you play something wrong anyhow.

Did you miss a beat, forget a verse, sing the wrong text, forget to come in a the right moment, even fall of the stage..? Don’t worry! One in a hundred (usually other musicians) will notice something wrong is going on. And here’s the best part: Those who notice, has been there themselves – they will definitely not make a scene about it.

The stress reactions – utilizing the energy

Many inexperienced performers has no clue as to what goes on in their body when they are about to perform. The jitters, shaking legs, sweating, needing to go to the bathroom, nausea, thundering heart… It’s all natural and designed to be!

In a nutshell, this is our evolution which has given us the fight or flight response. And here’s another kicker. We don’t perform better in spite of these seemingly weird things which goes on inside of us. Oh no, we perform better because of it!

This is an enormous pool of energy which is there to help you. Just acknowledge that these reactions are healthy, natural and beneficial. Then take the energy and run with it!  This is perhaps the best stage fright tips I can give you: To trust in this positive energy.

Make sure you watch the video down below about singing and breathing. It shows the importance of controlling your “nerves” and stage fright with the help of proper breathing technique. Good stuff!

Look – don’t look!

Another thing that a beginner live musician or other performer might be tempted to do, is to try (or want) to look at individuals in the audience. Some times an inexperienced performer may even be scared when he/she finds that you really don’t see them but they can see you, because of the stage light.

In either case, you forget that you need to to embrace the whole audience as an entity. By all means, dedicate or deliver your song to someone special but always perform it to everyone in the room!

If you can’t see the audience then just concentrate on your task – on playing the guitar and on the song. If you see anyone in the audience, just defocus (one of the videos below explains how). You can also move your eyes slowly all over the room, or look to the back of the room as if you want to draw everyone closer to the stage.

Don’t worry – be happy!

By working on your performance and taking in the various stage fright tips found on this page and the videos below, you should be one your way to overcoming stage fright even if it may seem as likely as winning the Oscar right now.

Remember, all performers have performance anxiety or stage fright to some extent. In essence, it’s all natural, all manageable and all good. After all, since we can’t get rid of stage fright all together, why not go with the flow and benefit from it? :-)

To wrap things up for you, here are a couple of good, to-the-point videos about dealing with stage fright and the fear of public speaking.

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Guitar Barre Chords

22nd May


A barre chord lesson

guitar-barre-chordsMake no mistake about it – a barre chord, or bar chord as it is also (although incorrectly) called, can be a real challenge to all budding electric guitar players.

It should go without saying that it is definitely not easier to do correctly and efficiently on an acoustic guitar.

In the following, we will examine some of the ways you can alleviate things and make it easier for yourself to pull of a barre chord/bar chord without calling it quits prematurely, wanting to pull your hairs one by one out or being in urgent need of painkillers or physiotherapy :-)

There are quite a few things you can do both to your playing as well as your guitar, in order to make guitar barre chords quite a bit more manageable.

But first…

What is a barre chord?

The correct spelling of this way of playing a chord is barré. Here, you’ll commonly use your index finger (and occasionally more than one finger) to press down multiple strings across the fretboard on your guitar. You may think of the index finger being a guitar capo or a “bar” pressing the strings down, and perhaps this is where the name bar chord came from.

This action of barring the strings across the fingerboard enables you to play chords not restricted by the notes of the open strings on your guitar.

Bar chords are some times also called moveable chords: The logical reason for this, is that you can easily and quickly move the various chord shapes on the guitar neck as you see fit.

Lowering the bar

I have had several people asking me how they should go about managing these “dreaded bar chords”. In fact, I suspect more than one person has given up the idea to learn electric guitar all together simply because they didn’t manage to play barre chords at all.

The sad thing really is this: The same folks have been chocked at how much easier it could be once their guitar was properly set-up. You see, a badly adjusted guitar makes playing these chords very hard even for experienced players.

To learn more about the importance of proper guitar set-up and our recommended guitar set-up guide, you can read more at this post: Guitar setup. I can guarantee you this: You will likely be amazed at how much easier a properly adjusted guitar is to handle. It can almost be a make or brake issue as far as playing barre chords goes…

How to play barre chords

There are quite a number of small but significant things you can do to you playing technique to make these moveable bar chords easier to do. This includes how to anchor your thumb on the backside of the guitar neck, opposite of the barring finger/s; where to place and how to tilt your bar finger to get cleaner notes and more.

It is always easier to see this in a video, rather than reading a lengthy, written explanation. I reckon the below video should be very helpful to you.

(Don’t) lean into it!

Another thing you should be aware of is that many beginners tend to slump or lean over their guitar in order to see where they place their fingers.  This is a bad habit in general, and really bad for being able to play guitar barre chords properly.

What happens is that it becomes much harder to hold your anchor thumb in the proper position on the guitar neck. It is also much harder to maintain enough pressure with the fretting hand and thumb if you don’t sit straight and hold your fretting hand at a proper angle.

Take it easy!

As with everything else, it is tempting to force yourself and being impatient. Just remember that mastering bar chords takes time. No matter how good your technique is and no matter how good your guitar set-up is, it still takes time to build up sufficient strength in your hand as well as “muscle memory” and coordination.

Remember to go easy on yourself and take brakes. Do some simple barre chord exercises for half an hour maximum to begin with, then play something else (or take a brake all together)!

Follow the above guidelines and you will soon have these chords down :-)

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Good Beginner Electric Guitar

28th March


Finding the best beginner electric guitars online

good beginner electric guitarToday, seeking out a really good beginner electric guitar is virtually a breeze.

However, finding beginner electric guitars with great, consistent build and set-up quality at an affordable price can be somewhat more of a challenge.

One brand of guitars we have found which really fits this bill to T is the Agile electric guitars.

I haven’t tested their acoustic line of guitars, but I will assume these are great value for the price also (although they don’t seem to have some better steel string acoustics though – kind of a shame…).

As far as their electrics goes, I haven’t heard anything but really great things. They are well set up, superb looking – and their prices…? Wow!

Their better models have the kind of specs that can put any US built instruments to shame any time, and at a fraction of the price for a Fender or Gibson.

Some comments about the Agile guitars

Here are some of the comments given about the Agile brand of electric guitars from the suppliers web site (rondo.com).

“The problem that I have is my wife would rather play my Agile than her Gibson. She says the Agile plays much better and sounds just as good.”

“I may have played better guitars, but not by much and NEVER at this incredible price!”

“I just wanted to tell you that this has been one of the best guitar purchases I’ve made in the past ten years.”

“(…) I just can’t believe the sound, the look or the price!”

“My personal opinion on this guitar is that it kicks its competitors in their teeth.”

For anyone thinking about buying an Epiphone Les Paul, new or used, I urged you to seriously consider picking up one of these Agile Les Paul guitars – you will not be sorry.

The good, the bad and the ugly?

When you’re looking to purchase a lower end guitar, either online or at a store, you may have to run through (not literally, do you hear! :) a huge number of instruments to “strike gold”. The quality really is up and down. One instrument can be gob-smacking good, while the neck from the same production run couldn’t really be fit for anything but firewood.

The Agile electric guitars seems to be built at a much higher consistent quality. So, any of these guitars have the potential of serving you well for many years to come.

I should in all fairness have to make an exception for the cheapest guitar models though. After all, a $50 guitar will probably never be an instrument fit for the likes of Eddie Van Halen or Eric Clapton.

But dude, seriously – Why in the name of Robert Johnson wasn’t some these instruments around when I first started out! Oh dear, the sad excuses for guitars we had to stick with…

If you have $200-300 or slightly more to spend on an electric guitar, one of these babies will make your goal to learn electric guitar properly and easily so much more achievable, worthwhile and downright fun.

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Guitar Sustain

24th January


Electric Guitar Sustain – How and Why?

guitar sustainProperly executed and controlled guitar feedback/sustain is perhaps one of the most sought after skills in lead guitar playing.

When you first begin to learn electric guitar, this may not be the first thing which comes to mind. However, it will likely become something you’d want to master after a while.

A very common question goes something like this: “How does so and so guitar player (insert name here) manage to hold his tone like for ever? I would like to learn this.”

There are several factors that may come in to play and a number of ways to achieve guitar sustain in electric guitars, so why not let us look at them one by one?

Sustain in the guitar

Some guitars – usually the better ones – often times have more sustain to begin with. A quality guitar which has been played in will vibrate more freely and thus is easier to work with as far as guitar sustain goes.

It is also widely considered that a good guitar (well built, quality woods) with set neck has better sustain than a non set neck instrument.

Pick-ups, guitar strings and string height

It does not help having a good guitar if you’re using old and dead strings, or a guitar which haven’t been properly set up. A good guitar set-up is one of the important factors for achieving controlled guitar feedback (sustain).

You will need strings that are relatively new and clean, and you will have a hard time with “rubber band” (very light) strings and a very low action. Raise the action and use heavier strings, and you’re better off :-)

Also if the pick-ups are too close or too far from the strings, you may have problems. Some players prefer pickups with a higher output. In any case you need to have the distance set close to the strings, but never ever too close (this will dampen the sound)!

Guitar amp feedback

When we’re talking about electric guitar feedback, we usually talk about an interaction between the guitar player, the guitar and the guitar amp.

The player makes the string vibrate, and the pick-up sends the signal to the amp. The amp “sends” the signal back to the guitar – reinforces the vibration – and you get this desired feedback loop. It is more complicated than this, but I think you get the picture.

Anyhow, to get the loop working you will usually need a good tube/valve amplifier and quite a bit of volume. When you position yourself closer to said amp and begin to move the guitar at various angles, you will find the angle and distance that works best. But remember – you will need volume, so a small amp cranked way up (giving a healthy doze of tube distortion) may be just what the feedback doctor ordered :-)

Vibrate those strings!

To keep the strings vibrating and feeding the sound back, you’ll want to have a good clean way of playing your guitar and have the art of string vibrato down to a T.

Another way to accomplish this is to use a finger slide of brass, steel, glass or ceramics. The heavier ones give more sound.

Compressors

Something which may help you to some extent is a compressor pedal (other places also called sustain pedal).

In layman’s terms, compressors “squash” the signal and then gradually release the sound. As this release effect raises the envelope of the decaying note over time, the sound lasts a bit longer.

Guitar sustainer effect

The first to reproduce a commercial sustainer effect device for live use was the trusty E-bow. This was a hand held device which could be used on one string at the time. By placing it over the pick-up, you can get the string to vibrate, giving “infinite sustain guitar”.

Anyone who remembers “Love Hurts” by the band Nazareth? Anyhow, they guitar player used the E-bow for the solo in that hit song. There’s also a video below demonstrating the electronic device.

Fernandes is a brand that makes something similar. However the Fernandes guitar sustainer system works on all strings, not just one. Here, the neck pick-up works as the driver – setting the strings to vibrate.

This neat system comes installed in many of the Fernandes guitars. They also have kits that can be installed in other guitar makes and models. I use this myself (as well as an E-bow) and it’s way cool.

You’ll also find a video down below showing one of these great guitars in action.

Fat fingers?

Groove Tubes has a product the call Fat Fingers. This is a small device that clamps on to the neck of your guitar (or bass). It is said to increase the sustain by adding physical mass to the headstock of the instrument.

I haven’t tested this device myself, but I intend to try it. It’s discreet, fast to take on and off, leaves no marks and is not expensive … so why not?

Other means to an end

The classic British band 10CC, used a device many years ago called the Gizmo or Gizmotron. This mechanical effect was used on some of of their many hit songs.  You’ll find a video of one of them below: “I’m Not in Love”.

Here’s a piece of information from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Gizmo:
“The actual device, a small box which was attached to the bridge of the guitar, consisted of six small motor-driven wheels with serrated edges to match the size of each string. The continuous bowing action was activated by pressing one or all of keys located on the top of the unit. Pressing a key would allow the wheel to descend against a motor driven shaft and bow the corresponding string (…).”

Finally, other players have from time to time used other tools such as electric power drills (!) held close to the strings to produce that infinite guitar sustain effect in live settings.

Guitar feedback

The sustain effect we have discussed here is sometimes also referred to as guitar feedback.

However, feedback to me is more of an uncontrolled side effect, similar to when your acoustic guitars suddenly comes too close to a sound source or your vocal mike makes this high pitched squeal when you get too close to a PA speaker cabinet.

This type of feedback is never anything you want. Guitar sustain on the other hand can be a powerful tool in a the hands of a budding lead guitar player.

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How To Sound Like…

10th January


How To Play Like Your Favorite Guitarist

how-to-sound-likeOne of the most frequent guitar related questions we get goes something like this: “How do I sound like (insert name here)?”; or “how do I get my equipment to sound like (again insert name here)”?

Although it is very understandable wanting to learn how to play blues guitar like B.B King or Eric Clapton, rock out like Jimmy Page or Eddie Van Halen, or how to sound like the amazing Steve Vai or Brian May – just to mention a few of the many great electric guitar players ot there – this is a very hard thing to do. Subsequently these are questions which are really hard to give a satisfactory answer to.

When you start out wanting to learn electric guitar – emulating and mimicking other players and artists in your field is a great idea. I would go as far as saying that studying other great guitar players in detail is one of the best ways there is to learn.

In our quest to follow the path of other master guitarists, it is only natural that we also attempts to get a sound that is at least somewhat similar to what he or she has.

Let’s face it, if you want to learn how to play guitar like (country guitar great) Brent Mason or the late great “the Humbler” Danny Gatton, then you probably don’t want to play with a death metal set-up, or use anything else than a Fender Telecaster as your starting point.

However, this urge to get the exact tone as your role model, is another thing all together.

Observing guitar greats up front

Through the years I have had the chance to watch quite a number of amazing guitar players performing live – not only on their usual equipment, but others as well.

And you know what? They always sound like themselves no matter what they plug in to or play on. This should really be some food for thought…

I can vividly remember seeing greats like Slash or David Lindley playing on run-of-the-mill borrowed equipment in smaller venues. They sounded just like they were supposed to – 100% themselves.

Here’s a quote from guitar great Steve Morse (during an interview with musicradar.com:

“I’ve seen this time and time again, and I’m sure you have, too: You get two guitar players, give them the same guitar, same amp, same setup, you can even give ‘em the same pick [laughs]…and they’ll sound totally different. Equipment has very little to do with it; it’s all about the player and his feel and approach to music. It’s just like acting: two actors can read the same words from the same script, and you’ll get two completely different performances.”

There’s also a great comment – I think it is on the Gibson guitar site – from this guy who once had the chance to watch LA Guns with Tracii Guns (real name Tracy Ulrich) on lead guitar. He was playing a Les Paul through a regular combo amp. Also, Brian May of Queen fame and another great player from the Alice Cooper band at the time did stints on the exact same rig and guitar used by Tracii.

The other players reportedly sounded nothing at all like Tracii. Brian May sounded like he always does (no surprise there)!

Does all this tell you something? At least it was an eye opener for me when I realized how much of the sound is in the heart, soul, mind and hands of the player.

Getting in the same ball park – sound wise

Like I said previously, there’s absolutely nothing wrong about attempting to get a sound similar to what other players are getting.

In order to get a guitar tone closer to what you’re aiming fore, you will probably need to play a guitar kind of similar to what that other person does. Then you’d want kind of a similar guitar amp type with the majority of guitar effects that this other player uses.

By doing a search online, you will probably manage to dig up information about most of the equipment used by a particular artist. You should eventually be able to find more information on how to sound like that guy from your favorite band.

Just don’t forget that you still probably will have only one small piece of the puzzle.

Another thing to spend some time reflecting upon is this: Why try to become someone else? Why being a lesser copy of Carlos Santana, Jimmy Hendrix or Duke Robbilard? After all it is so more rewarding (and a heck of a lot easier) to be yourself, would you not agree?

If you intend to get anywhere with you playing (aside from being a cover artist or perhaps a session player) – having a unique style, just being you and becoming as good as you can get, will likely get you the furthest.

So what do you think? As always, I’d love to get your opinion and feedback on this issue. Do feel free to contact me or post your comment below!

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