Discipline in Practicing

In this article we look at how you can develop good guitar practice habits and we look at the common problems that many people have when learning how to change between chords smoothly. Let’s get started! There are two main factors when it comes to discipline in practice. They are practicing regularly, and practicing well. […]

The G Chord

Well it’s a rainy day here in Christchurch, New Zealand and lunchtime seamed the opportune moment to pick up the guitars and have a bit of a jam. Something we’ve been exploring lately is the “One Chord” jam. Quite simply we just pick a chord and hold it for the entire jam. This promotes all […]

Beginning with the major pentatonic

In the last post called Jamming I I introduced you all to a movable pentatonic minor blues box. It’s the foundation of most blues rock guitar and a really very highly versatile scale that will allow you to play licks, phrases and motifs across the neck.

BUT it’s definitely a scale with a dark and minor character: moody, doleful and chock full of midnight moonlight. What happens though if you manage to shake off those blues shackles and even crack a wry old grin into your sleeve every now and then?

So to complement the minor today I`m going to introduce the Major Pentatonic Box and this has a much more uplifting “major” character. If this sounds a litttle like GREEK to you then “DONT PANIC!” because it’s all about creating a mood, it’s all about discovering the way different sounds and intervals (the gaps between notes in terms of both pitch and space) create, enhance or combine to communicate emotion.

Listening & guitar I

Which is the right way to learn?

With the explosion of the internet and the vast cornucopia of you tube videos, tablature sites and other resources available online it’s easy to forget that one of the key skills for any musician is the ability to listen. Before the internet came along most of us learnt from records – through attempts to emulate or approximate the playing of artists we enjoyed listening to.Not from the internet but through learning songs from records a nd playing along with them.

Eric Clapton has consistently reiterated that he listened and learnt his trade from artists such as Freddie, B.B. and Albert King for example. He didn’t use tabs – he learned by listening. Nuances come across in listening: listening cannot be written down; and while tablature can be a fast shortcut to playing a piece of music there is an invaluable experiential quality to be gained from using your ears.

Because listening is exactly what you`ll be doing when you’re playing along with a group or in the studio it’s a very highly valuable exercise for any guitarist. The particular qualities of any high calibre guitarist cannot be expressed in tablature form. What makes a guitarist exceptional is the combination of technique, timing, phrasing and tonal quality that they bring to their playing – facets that your ear alone can pick up.

It takes a long time but its worth taking the time to train your ear through replicating the sounds that you hear on records. To begin with you`ll struggle and find it difficult, but over time the process will become easier.

Being an imitator is the first step along the road to becoming a creator but there are ways of imitation. Looking up the tab on the internet is the fast easy way, but if you really want to develop then use your ears as well. Remember though the sound you`re really looking to find is the sound of yourself.

Hendrix hooks & Root 5 chord

The reason this chord is called a root five is because it contains only the ROOT note and a note a FIFTH interval above it. To build a MAJOR CHORD we take the FIRST, the THIRD and the FIFTH notes of the D Major SCALE – in this context we would use a D an F# and a A to build a Dmajor chord.
In today’s example we are breaking down a D major chord (D F# A) and removing the third – the F# to play a DIAD, a two note chord. The chord will be made up of only D and A, the 1st and 5th therefore making it neither major nor minor but modal.

Roman Numerals are conventionally used to identify each chord within any given key; so starting with a D we also play the fifth, an A. If this is beginning to sound a little like rocket science rather than music DONT PANIC; all will become clear in due time. For the moment, study the diagram and try to understand how the interrelationships between the scale, the chords and the fretted notes work. If it seems a little complex and confusing DONT PANIC; it’s just a small step forward on the route to greater understanding and don’t put yourself under any pressure!

On Hendrix’ second sophomore album Axis:Bold as Love Jimi takes the compositional skills first illuminated on Wind Cries Mary into a new dimension with an increasing emphasis upon lyricism over the acid soaked rock of his first release. Songs such as Castles made of Sand, the exceptional title cut, Bold as Love and the inspirational love song Little Wing bear testament to this progression away from rock simplicity towards lyrical complexity.

Jam Vox

Are you sick of Eric, Jimmy and Joe getting in your way when it comes to your solos? Well, show them who’s boss with the JAMVOX an integrated monitor and software system that extracts the guitar from any MP3 and plugs you into the mix of their favorite bands.

JamVOX gives guitarists instant access to dozens of legendary amps and effects all in one easy to use “drag and drop” software interface. Revolutionary Guitar XTracktion (GXT) technology lets you remove the guitar part of your favorite song with the push of a button.

1. 19 famous guitar amps and 54 effect units ranging from vintage to modern are provided as software.
2. Easy-to-use “drag and drop” interface enables guitarists to create their “dream guitar rig” without any advanced knowledge of amps or effects. Sound famous fast!
3. A music player feature with convenient functions for jam sessions or practice.
4. Import music files to jam along with from your favorite CDs, music library or MP3 player.
5. A dedicated USB monitor speaker is included, and there’s no need for complex wiring or specialized knowledge of computer music.
6. Two guitar play-along CDs containing 28 famous rock classics.

You can loop the playback, use the Tempo Change function to slow down the playback speed without affecting the pitch, and you can even use these functions while using GXT to extract the guitar part, making it much easier to learn rapid phrases by ear, or to practice difficult phrases. The Pitch Change function lets you change the pitch without affecting the tempo of the song, allowing you to correct slight discrepancies in pitch between your guitar and the song, or to play along with songs that use a dropped tuning.

iShred Pocket Guitar

iShred from Frontier Design is yet another guitar simulator for the iPhone, this time with an eye towards electrics, complete with stomp boxes and pedal effects. Unlike a lot of the other guitar apps out there, though, iShred looks fairly practical to use as a real instrument, allowing you to assign up to 10 chords to buttons at the top of the screen, leaving your other hand free to pick or strum. It’s the only practical way to do it—as cute as it may be to try to play chords on a virtual fret board, it’s nearly impossible to do so with any accuracy on the iPhone’s wide touch screen
PocketGuitar turns your iPhone into a virtual guitar. Choose from six instruments — Acoustic-Electric Guitar, Electric Guitar, Classical Guitar, Muted Guitar, Electric Bass, and Ukulele — then press and strum the strings to play. Even apply different effects such as Distortion, Chorus, and Delay. Not only can you play your own songs, but you can even play along with any stored music you have on your iPhone, too

ZEN guitar Practice.

After the nuclear war there will only be cockroaches and Keith Richards!! So let`s get practicing…with some general tips that you oughta bear in mind when you want to get all Zen on your fretboard.

1. Cultivate a desire to try and achieve excellence. When your lazy friends are down at the bar setting the world to rights you could stay at home beginning a journey to set either your own world on fire or even set the real world on fire.

2. Set yourself goals – both sensible & unattainable

Set yourself some goals and schedule your practice and STICK to IT. Perhaps consider two goals:

A.An aspirational one such as becoming as good as Jeff Beck (insert your favourite guitar maestro here) but also

B. A realistic, realtime short term goal: for example “In six months I will be able to play Johnny B. Goode by Chuck Berry”. Remember though it’s the journey not the destination that counts, a guitar is for life not just for Christmas if you want to go anywhere with it.

Don`t use your aspirational goal to beat yourself about though. Expecting to be able to play like Jeff Beck is akin to expecting to replicate the Cistine Chapel Ceiling on the interior of a ping pong ball – it’s a long hard difficult road walked only by those with a unique, god-given gift.

3. Find an environment that really works for you it may be outside beneath your favourite weeping willow or it may be in a quiet corner of your barn – make it as comfortable and as appealing as possible with few, or no distractions or interruptions.
If you can and you are serious about progression try to practice alone in a silent area. Also get the right chair, I`ll sometimes find myself thirty minutes into a jam session only to realise I`m curled up like a pretzel…no good man!

4. Make it easy – as the playing will initially be hard enough make it easy by using the tools that help. Buy the best guitar you can, buy a decent tuner and invest in learning materials that suit where you want to take your playing. Read this blog for more advice on the learning tools available. There is a veritable cornucopia of new digital practice tools such as the Ovation iDea guitar, the Fretlight guitars, Loopstation pedal or Fender G-Dec amplifier.

5. Develop Routines and excercises

A. start off with easy rewarding warm up work before moving onto your structured learning path (or course) – this may be a couple of songs you really enjoy, so write them down, and maybe singalong.

6. Join a band – the fastest way to leanr is from other more competent players. Use your ears and your eyes, ask questions.

7. It`s never too late to start and whatever happens don’t give up. If David Geffen isn`t ringing you up don`t worry. The journey is usually far more interesting than the destination.

8. Make mistakes and try stuff well outside your usual playing boundaries. Experiment as much as possible and try unusual positions. Try sliding chords around or even moving them across the strings.

9. If your fingers, hands and wrists are hurting then stop awhile.

10. Enjoy using effects and guitar toys but don’t fall into the trap of letting them do all the playing for you – one day you`ll want to be at the stage where you compliment the effects and not vice versa.

8. Reward yourself afterwards with something you enjoy like “icecream”.

12. Try and listen to the right records for a start but don’t limit yourself to the world of guitar. Choose your poison for example saxophonists Sonny Rollins, Roland Kirk and Miles Davis play some fantastic lead lines.

11. Most importantly – make sure it’s fun.

12. Have alook at “Zen Guitar” by Philip Toshio Sudo – it’s about motivation and fulfillment, not technique.

Capo 1

A capo is a device used for shortening the strings, and hence raising the pitch, of a stringed instrument such as a guitar, mandolin or banjo. What a capo does, in effect, is to move the position of the nut of the guitar to shorten the length of the guitar neck and strings and therefore raise their pitch.

Capos are used to change the key and pitch of the open strings of a guitar without having to adjust the strings with the tuning keys.

The pitch of fretted notes does not change; only the open, unfretted strings are affected. It should be noted that the capo is placed as close to the fret as possible; some practitioners recommend placing the modern clamp-style capos directly on the fret, rather than behind it.

Clamping a capo on the fingerboard of your guitar will let you instantly change the key of a song without having to learn new chords. This will come in handy if you accompany a singer whose vocal range is better suited for another key. For example, a capo installed at the second fret on a guitar in standard EADGBE tuning would then have an open tuning of Gb, B, E, A, Db and Gb. The following steps will show how to use a capo on an acoustic guitar.

Because of the different techniques and chord voicings available in different keys, the same piece may sound very different played in D or played in C with a capo at the second fret (at the same actual pitch). Additionally, the timbre of the strings changes as the scale length is shortened, suggesting other short-scaled stringed instruments such as the mandolin. Therefore the use of a capo is as much a matter of artistic expression as of technical expediency.


1. quick release capo

Use a quick-release capo to change keys quickly between songs to accompany different singers while retaining the same voicing.

2. clamping capo

Observe a clamp-style capo. This type fits from the side of the neck and is more difficult to install but allows for capoed tunings that leave some strings open.

3. pencil and band.

strictly for the hobo’s, man. ride them rails!


The partial capo (also known as a cut capo or short cut capo) is a regular six string acoustic guitar capo that has been “cut” or altered to allow it to clamp down only on certain strings while leaving other strings open or unclamped. Typically, partial or cut capos clamp down on the A, D, and G strings on a regular-tuned six-string, which results in a DADGAD-style alternate tuning. Many guitarist place a standard, spring-loaded capo backwards on the guitar, so the shorter side of the capo (normally providing pressure on the back of the neck) clamps the inner strings.

Dominic Frasca is known for his customized ten-string prepared guitar with single string “mini-capos” as well as sticks and levers attached to the guitar to create percussive sounds and effects.

Fret Light guitars

The guitar plugs directly into your PC too so there`s no need for clunky interfaces or stuff like that that needs configuring and the supplied axemaster software is a fully-featured guitar fretboard diagram creation tool, as well as a platform for integrated HTML-based guitar lessons. The best part about AxMaster is it is totally customizable. The chords and scales can be lit up in any key, any fret range, and in any string combination so the player can experiment to their hearts delight. Precise open tunings can be tweaked and saved and lit up on the Fretlight guitar. No other learning system can match the power of AxMaster and a Fretlight guitar. The advanced player can also make custom chord and scale diagrams and insert them into a list, called a Macro. Here they can instantly recall those or step through them with the optional dual footswitch. A powerful Macro editor allows creation of custom progressions. Fully-loaded with our entire list of chords, scales, arpeggios, triads and more. Supports alternate tunings, one click modulation displays note locations on screen and on the Fretlight Guitar neck in real-time.