Friday, November 26, 2010

Welcome Rob Bourassa!

I will soon be adding Rob's complete seven week guitar primer course on Stringmania. He's a wonderful guitarist and all around musician.  Be sure to check him out on Ukulele and Banjo too :)

I'll See You in my Dreams - Rob Bourassa Fingerstyle Guitar

Thursday, November 25, 2010

What not to do to your guitars

One of my biggest pet peeves is when I see that someone hasn't taken proper care of their instruments.  Here are a few photos of  what not to do.

While I'm on this subject, I would like to mention some words of wisdom that a friend once told me.  "Don't put your guitar in a place that you would not be comfortable in yourself". Keep your guitar out of any extreme temperatures.

Also, do not ever, ever, ever, use the following items on a guitar :

  • Lemon pledge. Its great for furniture but not for guitars. For instance, if you have a rosewood  fretboard and it looks dry, use lemon oil that is specially formulated for the guitar. You can find it in your local music store.
  • WD40. Again, this product is great, but not for guitar stuff. Using this stuff can damage your finish.

If your guitar looks dirty, use guitar polish. There are many different types and all of them are pretty good. You can find this at your local music store.

Electric Guitars and Acoustic Guitars

A lot of people ask me which is better to learn on, an acoustic or an electric?  The answer is that it depends on many factors.  You have to ask yourself several questions, the first one being:  What type of music do I want to play?  For instance, if you like folky, finger-style stuff like James Taylor or Jim Croce, then you might want to get an acoustic.  If you like rock stuff with crazy guitar solos or heavy metal and such, then you, perhaps, would want an electric. 

You see, it all hinges on what type of player you want to be.  In general, I would say that electrics are easier to play on.  They have thinner necks and usually lighter gauge strings, both of which are aspects that are easier on untrained hands.  If you do decide you want an electric, you will probably want to purchase an amplifier as well.  You don't necessarily need an amp,  you can hear the music without it, but an amplifier does provide much more volume.

Acoustic guitars can be heard much easier than an unplugged electrics, however, it takes more hand strength to play on one because of the thicker gauged strings and the necks are a little bigger.  The plus side of this is that when you do play an electric, it will be much easier due to you being used the acoustic.  Go in a music store and try both. That's the best way. In a nutshell, you will have to find what works for you.

If you do decide to get an acoustic, you should be aware that there are basically two different types as far as quality of craftsmanship is concerned.  They are known as solid top acoustics and laminated top acoustics. Solid top acoustics are more finely made. The top of the body is made out of one piece of wood.  This provides a better resonance for the instrument. The tone of a solid top will also improve with age.

With that being said, the laminated top is the cheaper of the two. They are made from several layers of wood, sort of like plywood. Now don't get me wrong, there is nothing wrong with having or buying a laminated top guitar. Ive played and owned some wonderful laminated tops.  Its just that solid tops are generally higher quality, as far as tone and craftsmanship are concerned.   I've included some photos with notes on how to tell the difference between solid tops and laminated tops.

Another thing to take note of is whether or not the neck is made of one piece of wood.  I've included a few photos of some necks, as well.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Welcome Banjo Ben!

Banjo Ben is a very talented friend of mine that I studied music with.  He is a multi-instrumentalist and has recently allowed me the privilege and honor of hosting some of his video lessons.   Hes a touring musician who has played with many greats.  Simply put, Ben is the real deal! So be sure and check out  all of his guitar, banjo and mandolin lessons, as well as his site:

Donald Fagen talks about PEG pt 1

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Music is Personal

          Music is personal.  Everyone has different reasons for liking something.  Not everyone is going to appreciate, (insert musician of choice here), nor are they going to feel as passionate about them as you do.  Growing up, I found it hard to comprehend how my friends could not like the same artists that I did.  I hated what they listened to and found it absurd that they didn't like who I liked to listen to.  There were even times where I would ask myself "Seriously, do they choose the most horrendous stuff to listen to, on purpose?"
       The thing is to realize is that music is personal. I learned this from one of my mentors in college when I gave him a cd to check out and he couldn't stand it. I asked why, and he simply said "music is personal".  In other words the music you like might not move someone in the way that it moves you.
         Personally, I prefer instrumental music. I would have to say that most of my music collection is instrumental stuff. That is to say that I like to listen to the actual composition, however, if I do listen to music with lyrics, I like them to make sense and I want them to have a theme and meaning, not some trite topic.  One of my personal pet peeves is when someone says "man that's so deep even I don't understand it"  To me there's true creativity and then there's those who just put something out there that is total BS.  With this being said, I like to say that there is art in everything and there is also crap in everything. Ultimately, its up to you to discern between what is art and what is crap.
         Also, you will discover that as time goes by, your tastes will change.  I used to say that I liked everything except rap and country. After a few years began saying I liked everything except rap.  Nowadays I listen to everything from Snoop Dogg to John Coltrane to the Allman Brothers to Metallica to Cole Porter.  The Best advice I can give you is to check all genres out.  Its like watching movies. Do you only like comedies or do you watch other types too? Do you also like romance, westerns, horror, etc...?  Get the idea? You don't limit yourself on movies, food, clothes,etc... then why would you limit your musical tastes?

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Joe Satriani Guitar Exercise

Picks and Strings

Everybody has different tastes and preferences.  I like to encourage my students to experiment and find out what works for them.  Here are a few guidelines to help you:

Electric Guitar Strings:    Strings come in sets such as 8's, 9's, 10's etc... in general I would recommend 9's.  Overall 9's are a good place to start.   I would especially recommend these for someone who doesn't know what they want.  By the way, 9's refer to the gauge or the thickness of the string.  There are all types of brands of strings and in my opinion all are pretty good I mean to say its pretty hard to make a crappy string.  I prefer the brand Ernie Ball. In trying to find what works for me, I settled on 10's. I have small hands and 11's are a little too much for me.  The general idea is that the thicker the gauge the fatter the tone, however thicker gauge strings are harder to play on, and also harder to bend.  Ultimately, its a toss-up. You have to decide what kind of music you want to play and what type of tone you want to have.  For heavy metal, you might want to try heavy gauge strings because they tend to be good for tuning low. The general rule for this is: "for lower tunings use heavier gauged strings"  For country lead, you would probably want a light gauge such as 9's or 10's in order to get that chicken pickin', twangy, country sound.  These guidelines aren't set in stone, but they are what most professional players do. Overall, you have to figure out what works for you.

For acoustic guitar strings I personally wouldnt use any set lower than 11's.  When dealing with acoustic guitars one generally wants to use a higher gauge string set than they would on an electric guitar because thinner gauges on acoustic guitars do not resonate as well nor sound as pronounced.  That is thinner gauges on an acoustic guitar sound, well, thinner.  (pun intended) 

For picks I like to use Dunlop Tortex .88mm  sharp.  I encourage you to experiment and see what works for you, picks are cheap so go and get a variety of them.  Try different thickness's and shapes.  I like to use thick picks because they do not bend.  I don't like them to bend because its harder to control.  To me thin picks give a boingy sound.  I read this in an issue of guitar player and found that I agreed with this.

Dave Mustaine's Spider Chord

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Jimmy Rosenberg Made for Wesley

Networking and Creating a Community

    It has been said that its not who you are, its who you know.  In my experiences, that has always been true. I once saw a documentary on a famous actor in which he kept a notebook that was filled with contacts he had made over the years.  The pages had states written on the top such as Nebraska and under that he had all of his Nebraska contacts listed. 
    Networking is essential to survive in life.  When I was in college studying music I bought a recipe box and took all the recipe cards out and had all the (good) musicians I knew write down their names, numbers, and addresses along with what instrument they played.  I still have that box of contacts and from time to time I've had to rely on it.
    Another thing that I recommend is to get your own business cards. Mine had my name and what instruments I played along with all of my contact information on them.  These were great when I was out and about meeting different people. You never know who you will run into, so its better to be prepared and personal business cards are more professional than writing down your name on a piece of paper.

Ways to become a better musician

Here are a few ideas that I had that will improve your musicianship:

-Listen to a variety of different artists.  Explore other genres of music.  Listen to different instruments.

-Devote a certain time of the day to practice each day

-Get real organized about your practice.  Devote certain amounts of time to specific areas, such as 15 mins on arpeggios, or 10 mins on chords.

-Start working with a metronome. Learn how to play along with it.  Try different rhythms or strum patterns with it.

-Learn new musical terms. Learn new chord/scale/arpeggio families.

-Read up on music history, watch a music documentary. 

-Try learning a second instrument

-Play with other people. Everyone has something to share, if nothing else, what not to do.  Jam with people, create jam sessions, or better yet, get in a band.  In fact, if you have never been in a band you should get in with one as soon as possible.

-Take lessons from everyone. Get a broad education. I've had countless instructors and each one had a different perspective on things. Sometimes one would have a better way of explaining a topic than a previous instructor.