Spinal Tap – Tonight We’re Gonna Rock It!

For some reason, this evening I found myself reminiscing about the first ever live performance that I gave, at the tender age of 17. It was in a talent contest at my school and me and my buddies dressed up as the members of Spinal Tap to give our rendition of “Tonight We’re Gonna Rock It!”.

It was awesome and got me hooked on performing live in front of audiences.

Here is how it should be done, though. These guys have perfected the presentation of good music combined with just the right amount of dead-pan humour to make you wonder for a moment whether they are actually serious or not.

My own band’s performance did not measure up to the ‘Tap’s mastery, but we did win our little talent contest.

Hope you enjoyed the video.

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Blues Guitar Chords

I’m just gonna come right out and say it, “blues guitar chords are boring, boring boring!”

There, I said it. Now, that’s probably resulted in one of two reactions in your mind, dear Reader. Either you’re nodding your head in agreement or you’re tut-tutting at your computer screen safe in the knowledge that the idiot writing this blog post is ignorant of the theory of music and probably thinks that a quaver is a cheesy, deep-fried, corn-based snack that melts in your mouth. Well, here in the UK that’s one of our top selling savoury snacks…and they are delicious. But I digress.

Allow me to reassure you that my knowledge of music is at least on a par with my knowledge of fast food…

…When I say that the blues guitar chords boring, what I’m talking about are the standard 12 bar blues guitar chords, played without any imagination or variation. This is a common mistake that many of you beginners make. We’ve all been there, playing the same old blues guitar chords progressions over and over again while our more accomplished friends play their cool solos lovingly crafted from a deep understanding of the theory of the blues guitar scales over the top of the solid rhythm guitar foundation we’ve laid for them.

I can hear your protests now.

You’re saying, “I realise I’m playing a sequence of easy blues guitar chords over and over again. I’m doing this deliberately to allow the lead guitar some space to flourish. I don’t want to clash with what Dave’s doing with his awesome arrangements of pentatonic goodness.”

Really? Or are you just beng lazy? All the best blues guitarists like to mix things up a bit. They don’t stick to playing precisely what’s shown on their blues guitar chords chart pinned above the drawers in their bedroom. No way man! They add in little trills here and there, they add hammer ons, slides and vary their strumming techniques.

Check out this free blues guitar chords lesson and pay attention to what the guy recommends. You’ll be amazed at the difference it makes.

If you can put into practice what the chap in the video was telling you, you’ll find your boring old blues chords for guitar are transformed into something that actually sounds pretty darned slick.

And remember, like the man says, “it always helps to know your scales”. This is excellent advice, which you must follow.

Keep practising and you will get better. Just stick with it!

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Lead Guitar Lessons

As I sat at my computer this evening, surfing the web for all things guitar-related, I stumbled across this video that I thought I’d post under the heading lead guitar lessons. At first I thought this was just another bedroom guitarist shoveling mediocrity into the guitar interwebs. And if you don’t pay attention you might think the same.

But look again! Or I should say, “listen again!” Because this guy, with his grainy-effect video and goofy-looking headphones can teach you a lot about how to play lead guitar.

“But he’s just playing along to Radiohead”, I hear you cry. “And it’s not even that fast or technically challenging – in fact my mate taught himself to play that the other day and he’s only been playing a couple of months”.

Ah yes, but can your mate play this piece properly? He might get the notes in the right order. They might even be in time, but what about the dynamics, the intonation…the feel?

The tubby bloke in the video has got this down. Pay attention because you can learn from him.

Listen to the dynamics of what he is playing. The softness of some notes. The loudness of others. He introduces these subtle variations expertly and effortlessly to create lead guitar with true feeling. If this passed you by, don’t sweat it – you’re a beginner, that’s why you’re reading this blog – but do yourself a favour, go back and watch the video a few more times. Listen to how David varies the volume of the notes. He attacks some of them and barely brushes the string with his pick on others.

This kind of guitar playing is where the men can distinguish themselves from the boys. Shred all you want. Those high gain, effects filled, blistering solos do sound impressive but they can hide sloppy technique and, to be honest, you can get away with murder if you just keep widdling away with that kind of playing.

A true master can blow you away with an apparently simple piece, played with real feeling and perfect technique.

Watch Dave, follow his left hand, practise until you can play the notes and they become second nature. Then you can add the emotion and feeling into the mix through correct use of dynamics. Once you can do that, you’ll be one step closer to playing like a pro. And get some lead guitar lessons, if you can learn a lot from watching Dave’s video, imagine what a good guitar teacher can do for you…

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Easy Guitar Songs

House of the Rising Sun
If you’re a beginner guitarist, looking for some easy guitar songs to get your teeth into, you could do a lot worse than check out the “House of the Rising Sun“. No, I’m not talking about the Chinese restaurant over the Post Office. I’m talking about the song by the Animals, which they crafted back in the 60’s.

It’s an easy song to learn, yet satisfying to play, especially if you’ve got the hang of singing at the same time as playing. I learned it from a classmate when I was still at school and still play it now and again when I’m feeling soulful.

For a full explanation of how to play this classic track, check out this article.

Stay tuned for more easy guitar songs and instructions on how to play them…

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How to Play Blues Guitar

Blues Guitar Scales – and why they are important for more than just learning how to play blues guitar

In my last post, which went into the benefits of learning easy guitar songs, I mentioned the importance of getting a little information on guitar theory under your belt early on.

Now, don’t roll your eyes, groan and tell me that you’re only interested in playing for fun and that you don’t want to spend time on the study of “boring” music theory. If you don’t have any desire to learn blues guitar scales at the moment, I’m hopng that I’ll be able to convince you otherwise by the end of this post. Because if you only ever learn one scale, the minor pentatonic – or blues scale – should be it.

So why is the humble blues scale the best place to start with guitar theory? There are several reasons:

  1. It’s easy to remember and play.
  2. It’s used in many different types of music – not just the blues itself.
  3. It sounds great!
  4. It’s relatively simple musically and there is less to go wrong, making it ideal for beginners.

There are probably lots more reasons I could think up if I had the time and the inclination, but I’d rather spend the rest of this post talking you through the basics of the blues scales themselves. An introduction to the subject, if you will, before sending you off in the direction of an article on how to play blues guitar on one of those useful websites that I routinely seek out for your delectation.

First of all, I should give you some background about the blues in general before gong on to discuss the blues scale in more detail.

The blues originated in the deep south of the United States of America and was very popular among African Americans in the early part of the twentieth century. The notes employed and the musical origins of the blues genre are rooted in the desert songs of Africa but have been given their own identity and have taken on a whole new life of their own in the United States of America, where artists such as BB King, Muddy Waters and Howlin’ Wolf took the genre to a whole new level. In fact, these American blues artists went on to influence many of the rock and blues giants of the later twentieth century, with bands such as The Rolling Stones owing much of their underlying musical foundation to the songs, rhythms and melodies of the early blues pioneers.

Just as with all music, the blues is a language. A musical language comprising letters, words and sentences etc. If you think of a blues guitar lick – or lead part – as a word, the notes of the blues scale that make up that lick are the letters. Different players put their notes together in different ways to make different words, which they play with different “accents”. A lick in the style of BB King could be said to have a BB King “accent”.

In much the same way as someone from the southern states of America might have a particular accent, you can discern a distinctive and unique rhythm, intonation and “pronunciation” that makes BB King’s lead guitar sound like BB King. The same is true for all guitarists to various extents. Think about it. I bet you can tell Eric Clapton from Mark Knopfler, or Jimi Hendrix from Gary Moore (RIP) just by listening to their playing. When you pay attention to how they play, you can hear it’s them because they have their own way of “talking” the language of blues guitar.

Blues guitar scales are utilised in many different genres of music and you only need listen to pretty much any modern guitar-orientated band to realise that blues scales are used everywhere from rock-and-roll to pop, from folk to rockabilly. Once you become aware of them, they turn up all over the place.

The blues scales are really quite easy to learn and play, and rather than go into detail here, I’ll point you to this excellent resource for beginners that takes you through a whole series of guitar lessons step by step. The website doesn’t look like much, but take the time to read through the articles because they contain some really useful information that will help you to learn guitar fast, which is what we all want. This series on blues guitar scales has some excellent practice tips, tablature and even a short video showing you exactly how to play the notes of the scale in each of the five positions on the neck.

So follow the lessons, practice what you learn and soon you’ll have the basics of how to play blues guitar…enjoy.

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Easy Songs to Learn on Acoustic Guitar

Are you looking for some easy songs to learn on acoustic guitar? I know I was when I first started to learn guitar. Even to this day I still enjoy playing some of the songs that I learned in the early days of my playing career. Just because a song is easy to learn doesn’t mean it necessarily becomes boring or no fun once your skills improve. Far from it.

One of the reasons that I started this blog – as its name suggests – was to help all you beginner guitarists out there to learn guitar fast. I was sick and tired of all the substandard guitar tutorials available on the web that promised the world and delivered nothing but a confusing mish mash of tips and tricks, in no particular order and without any real structure.

Youtube is a case in point here. It seems that, when the camera’s rolling, everyone believes they’re an expert. Anyone who owns a guitar can point a camera at themselves, look into the lens and talk for 10 minutes in the belief that what they know about how to play the guitar can help everyone out there on the internets. And they’re going to teach you the best way to learn guitar with a quick video they cooked up on the spur of the moment. It’s not until you’re a couple of minutes into their video that you realise they’re no more qualified to teach guitar than Peewee Herman is to teach cage fighting.

I don’t want to bad mouth folk who have obviously put in some effort to try to share what they know. Their intentions are, no doubt, good. Some of them are actually very good guitarists; but their ability to teach guitar is more questionable and they are more likely to show off their own skills than to impart useful knowledge to others.

If you’re a beginner guitarist, you need to find some good guitar instruction, and a good starting point is to get some video tutorials of some simple guitar songs. If you choose an easy song to learn on guitar and get a few decent Youtube guitar lessons to take you through the basics of it, you’ll make some decent progress fairly quickly and that will spur you on to keep learning more and more. Start with a few easy songs to learn on acoustic guitar to get you up and running, walk before you run and you’ll notice that it is much more beneficial musically to get an easy song down pat all the way through than it is to master a few individual riffs or licks from a more difficult song that’s beyond your current level of ability to play all the way through.

If you’re a beginner, one of the best songs to learn on acoustic guitar, in my opinion, is “More than Words” by Extreme. It has a very easy chord progression, you can sing along to it pretty easily and a lot of people know it so it’s good for an impromptu singalong around the the campfire.

Here’s one of those decent youtube guitar lessons I was talking about that will take you through it.

It’s also important for guitar beginners to get a reasonable grounding in guitar theory early on, and this is something I’d like to touch on in future posts. The benefits of knowing some basic musical fundamentals cannot be overstated because it really helps your playing to have an understanding of what it is you’re doing with your instrument, rather than simply learning where to put your fingers in a purely mechanical, parrot fashion, kind of a way.

When people ask me about guitar theory for beginners, I always recommend they start with the blues guitar scales. I’ll explain why in my next post.

In the meantime, enjoy learning “More Than Words”, and take some time to seek out other easy songs to learn on acoustic guitar, carefully avoiding the less helpful videos of course…

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Learning to Play Guitar

A lot of people who are interested in learning to play guitar make excuses for why they aren’t as good as they’d like to be. If you’re struggling in your quest to learn guitar fast, and are blaming your equipment then don’t.

Why?

Because it’s not about the guitar, that’s why.

Seven-times Tour de France winner, Lance Armstrong famously said, “It’s not about the bike”. The bike is just a vehicle.

Similarly, the guitar is just a means of expressing the musical thoughts and language that you have in your head. It is a tool, nothing more.

A lot of people think that they need a really great guitar to be able to play great music. They believe this because their guitar heroes often play very expensive, very nice looking, very nice sounding guitars.

Don’t get me wrong, a nice guitar is great, and if you can afford to get one then go for it. But don’t use the fact that your guitar isn’t as nice as Joe Satriani’s as an excuse to explain why you can’t play the guitar as well as he can. If you and Joe swaped guitars for a jam session, then I’m afraid that the chances are he would still sound amazing through your battered, cheap electric guitar and budget amp. And your playing wouldn’t suddenly be good, even when expressed through Mr Satriani’s state of the art axe and super expensive effects board and deluxe guitar amp.

If learning to play guitar well was dependent on buying fancy equipment, where would that leave the majority of teenagers who take up playing the guitar? In debt, that’s where. A lot of people with less than brilliant guitars are extremely good players so you don’t need top notch equipment to be a top notch player.

If you don’t believe me, just check these guys out.

Yep, that’s right, they’re all playing cigar box guitars. That’s guitars made out of actual cigar boxes. And yes, they all sound better than you do on your “proper” guitar.

Puts it into perspective, doesn’t it?

Remember, it’s not about the guitar! If you’re learning to play guitar, you need to practice hard, not spend hard.

Update: If you want to learn to play guitar properly, you could do a lot worse than to check out this website http://jamoramaguitarreviews.org/ for info on the available options.

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