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Friday, 20 March 2015

12 Bar Blues

I find blues to be and extremely enjoyable style of music to play. This is true both for advanced players and beginners as you really don't need to have a lot of background knowledge or experience in the matter. Blues can actually be the perfect style for a player to start at, due to how simple it can be made. The majority of blues tunes are so called ''Twelve Bar Blues''. This refers to the I ,IV, V chord sequence. For example if the song was in the key of A the chords used would be A, D and E.

This is your typical 12 bar blues pattern in the key of A.


 If your main aim is soloing, there is one essential thing you must do. Learn the pentatonic scale. This will provide you with a solid base that will keep you going in the world of blues. There are however slight alterations to the standard pentatonic scale which will make your solos have that tasty sound. Blues notes!

Another trick you can use to make your solos sound even better is combining the major and minor pentatonic scales. For example if you're playing in the key of A, you can play the a minor pentatonic blues scale and then shift to the first position of the C major pentatonic scale. This works very well as A is the relative minor of C major. There really isn't much more too it. All blues guitarists use this or at least base their playing on these few things.

Tuesday, 17 March 2015

Introduction to Jazz Chords

In this post I will give some examples of commonly used Jazz chords and their shapes. The first chord type I'm going to talk about is the dominant 7th chord. It is the most commonly used chord in Jazz. It consists of a root note, a major third, a fifth and the minor 7th.

The Major Seventh Chord. This can be a really nice sounding chord if played and used correctly. The Major 7 chord consists of the root note, the major 3rd, an optional 5th (makes the chord sound fuller in this case), and the Major Seventh. The major seventh is a step below the octave. The major 7th chord is usually notated in jazz as a maj7, because if it just said 7, it would imply Dominant. This chord is sometimes referred to as a "Major Major" chord, or a Delta chord.

The Minor Seventh Chord. This chord is also extremely common in a lot of forms in music. The -7 Chord consists of the root, the minor 3rd, optional 5th, and the minor/flat seven. A common way to notate this in jazz sheet music is either like -7, m7, or min7.

|-----------  -8--|
9th Chords. A 9th chord comes in a few different ways. The 9th is a compound Second interval. It can be an added voice to either a minor or dominant 7th chord. The 9 always implies the 7th in the chord unless it is written ass an add9 chord. When simply stated as a C9, it consists of the 1, M3, P5, m7, M9. The -9, m9, or min9 chords are the same thing, but with a minor 3rd.

|----- 3------|



b5 or Half Diminished Chords. Flat 5 chords are all too common in jazz. Almost in every jazz song in a minor key. The ii chord in a ii v i progression is half diminished. The b5 chord is played like a Minor 7 chord, but the 5th is flat. When playing in a combo or ensemble, it almost 100% necessary to add the b5 in this chord. It can also be notated as a circle with a slash through it, meaning half diminished.

|----- -4-----|
Diminished Chords. Fully Diminished chords are used a lot in jazz. It's the same thing as the Half Diminished chord, only the 7th is doubly flat. bb7, if you will. It's very complicated to play, I'll admit. In the third example, the root is in the high voice. This chord is not the most beautiful thing ever. Sometimes notated as just a small circle.

|--------  -8--|
|----- -4--7--|

In classical music and technical theory, a true 13 chord consists of the 1, 3, 5, m7, 9, 11, and 13. But in classical writing, You only need the 1, 3, 5, m7, and 13, because there aren't enough parts, or fingers to have the 9 and 11. So, for what were learning here, you should only voice the 1, 3, 5, m7, and 13.

6th Chords consist of the root, the major third, the fifth and the sixth. A happy little chord.

Getting Into Jazz

Jazz may seem like a rather complex and difficult genre of music, and unfortunately I can't say that it's not. It may take years  before you can call yourself a master, but there are certain approaches you can take to make the process smoother and more fun. I have been told many times, that a very good way of starting your journey through the world of Jazz is simply learning jazz standards such as Autumn Leaves or Aint Misbehavin. They say that your first 30 standards are the hardest and its downhill after that and i have to agree with that.

When learning a Jazz standard you shouldn't just be able to play along with the tune. You should learn both the rhythm and lead parts so that you have a deeper understanding of the piece of music. I find that an absolutely necessary component of practicing is playing with other musicians. Finding people to play with can sometimes be difficult but it is most definitely worth the effort as your sense of time and playing in a band improves drastically. A good way of jamming is swapping between the rhythm section and the lead solo section so that each one of the players gets to play every part.

One thing that many Jazz guitarists do is learning a lick in as many different positions on the neck as possible. This method improves your orientation around the neck and enhances your freedom and comfort when soloing.

Another thing you can do to improve your general jazz skills is invest in a Jazz chord book or find an equivalent online. Most Jazz scores have the melody written out and the chord names just written above it in which case you have to know the chord shapes to be able to play along. Knowing the chords you will be able to play along to pretty much any tune on the spot which can be a very useful skill when jamming with other musicians.

Wednesday, 11 March 2015

Pentatonic scale

The major pentatonic scale is commonly used in styles including blues, country, rock and jazz. The five shapes of the major pentatonic scale are the same as those for the minor pentatonic scale with the root positioned elsewhere. 

G major

 Position 1

Position 2

Position 3

Position 4

Position 5 

Thursday, 2 May 2013

Finger Picking

This is one of my favourite playing styles. This could be because when I was starting to learn to play i used my fingers. I find that if you become good at it and do it right you have more control over what you're playing which could give you comfort. Finger picking is mainly used in classical and flamenco playing, but that does not mean you can't play anything by using just your fingers.

A good example of a finger picker is Mark Knopfler (Dire Straits). He is an amazing guitarist and as true master at finger picking. For a taste of his skills look at the live versions of Sultans Of Swing on YouTube and check out his solos. Seriously he's pretty boss, some parts of the solos are hard to get right with a pick!

Playing with your fingers gives you quite a unique sound. It sounds more soft than when you use a pick.

You might think flamenco is not for you, but please do check out the flamenco players as they are absolute masters at what they do. They are the best of the best. The speed at which they play at and the difficulty are incredible.

In my opinion finger picking sounds best when you use a classical guitar with nylon strings. Classical guitars sound softer and prettier than normal guitars and you can create some great music with them.

Playing with your fingers is definitely worth learning. It is a skill every serious guitarist should acquire, no matter what technique they fancy most. It simply makes a better and more complete guitarist.

Thursday, 25 April 2013

Pickups: Passive Or Active

There has always been a debate about which type of pickups is better. I think it all comes to your personal preference, but there are some advantages and disadvantages of both of them.

Passive pickups are magnets which directly send the signal from the string, through the wood, into the pickup and into the amplifier. That creates the most organic, natural sound you can get. They are also the more popular type of pickups as many guitarists prefer to use them, because adjusting their volume knob allows them to produce multiple sounds without having to go and adjust the gain and treble on the amp. The disadvantage of passive pickups is their feedback, especially when you introduce gain. You can also get problems with intonation due to a magnetic pull on the strings, but if your pickups are decent quality you shouldn't have a problem. Players such as Jimi Hendrix, Jeff Beck, Eddie Van Halen and Angus Young all used passive pickups.

Active pickups are powered by a completely separate battery stored in the guitar which enables much higher output and clarity of the sound. They were first introduced for Jazz and clean players, but now they attract many metal players due to the hotter output. Metal players such as Kirk Hammett use active pickups as they allow them to push their amps near their limits while keeping the tight clarity of the sound. The problem with active pickups is that you would have to replace the 9v battery every time it starts to fade and also you have to be pretty good to sound good with active pickups as they pick up more mistakes so that could really piss you off.

I personally prefer using passive pickups because I like the ability to change my tone with the volume knobs and overall prefer the sound. It just gives you more freedom and possibilities when playing live, because believe me you do not want to go and mess with the amp in the middle of a live show. You will look like a retard or at least like someone who has no idea what they're doing.

Wednesday, 24 April 2013

Plectrums (picks)

You probably think this is completely irrelevant and not important. Trust me, it makes a difference. Choosing the wrong pick for the wrong song could ruin your performance. If you're good enough it might not change that much, but you should always be trying to match your pick to the song you're playing.

For playing pretty classical things or chords you should definitely use soft, bendy plectrums. They will make you sound smoother and generally nicer, whereas a hard, thick pick would just not work as well. 
For shredding and fast playing in general, you should use thick picks or the very small thick picks if you find them more comfortable and easier to play with, which some people do. The thick picks don't bend so you have more control over what you're playing which you will need when you reach super speed. Soft, thin picks will not allow you to play as fast without making mistakes and sounding clean.

If you play bass guitar, you need to get a bass pick. They're wider than normal picks and are easier to play bass with.

The brand of the pick doesn't really matter as long as you feel comfortable playing it.