All posts by jhiggins

The Electric Guitar

Acoustic guitars and their various musical relatives can be traced back thousands of years, but the idea of a guitar using electric currents to amplify its sound had to wait until the 1930s to start to take root. Necessity was, perhaps, the mother of invention here, as the volume of the guitar, used previously in blues and jazz, could not compete with the new sounds of the big band and the shriek of brass instruments. Early experiments with simply adding microphones to guitars had only limited success, partly due to the quality of the tone and partly because of the feedback that could occur as soon as a reasonable volume was reached. The breakthrough came when Les Paul, a jazz guitarist, successfully experimented with a magnetic pickup system that could convert the vibrations of the strings to an electrical signal to be amplified and sent to a speaker. Soon, guitarists started adding pickups to their hollow-bodied guitars, but in fact there was no need for an electric guitar to have a hollow body, as the pickups could detect very subtle vibrations and amplify them anyway. Before long, Fender, Rickenbacker and, of course, Gibson were producing solid-bodied electric guitars.

Innovations unique to the electric guitar

Electric guitars allowed many innovations that would go on to define their sound. Most noticeably was the fact that volume and tone controls could be added to the electronics between the pickup and the cable, which meant that the accomplished guitarist could adjust the tone and loudness whilst on stage. Second and third pickups were added at various points along the body to take advantage of the difference in tone at various points along the strings, and these could be blended together with multiple controls. The tremolo arm appeared, allowing notes to be bent down or up (before, they could only be bent upwards by pulling the string away from its natural line, thus tightening it). The tremolo arm was part of the early sound of rock ’n’ roll, and could make a vibrato sound or create the long, sustained, wailing sounds associated with Jimi Hendrix. Other sound effects, such as chorus, overdrive, vibrate, wah-wah, reverb and delay (echo) could also be controlled via foot pedals by the player, further adding to the variety of sounds available. The pickup was also applied to bass guitars, and is now seen on violins, mandolins, cellos and many other types of string instrument.

Musical styles using electric guitars

The genres of music that use electric guitars are too numerous for this article, but their origins can be traced back to the jazz and big band sound that became popular between the wars. Blues guitarists pioneered the “dirty” sound that would later morph into heavy metal, and no rock and roll group would be complete without at least one electric guitar. Bob Dylan was once called “Judas” by a heckler when he swapped his acoustic for an electric on stage, a significant moment in electric folk. The sixties saw mainstream pop and psychedelic bands putting the instrument to good use, and disco, punk, ska and reggae music of the seventies used the instrument’s inherent rhythm; a lively and thriving African sound is once of the guitar’s most innovative current streams. Whenever a new technology has come along, especially the electronic revolution of the late 1970s and 1980s, people have written off the electric guitar, but it shows no sign of losing popularity.

Guitar Strings

For all the advice that I got about buying a guitar for my friends, I learned very little about guitar strings. I had always assumed that the guitar alone determines the sound you get out of it. With an acoustic guitar, the main thing is how the body is constructed and what materials are used. If you had good tone woods, solid construction, and a large enough body to resonate, you would get a brilliant warm tone. With electric guitars, it had to do with what pickups you used. Different pickups would give sharp tones, mellow tones, or hot distorted sounds.

When I had been playing for about a year, I got sick of my guitar, but I didn’t really have money for another one. It wasn’t a very good model, and it didn’t sound great in the hands of inexperienced player. When one of my friends suggested trying some different guitar strings, I thought he was being silly. I had tried a few different acoustic guitar string brands, and had not noticed any difference. He told me to buy myself some high-quality Martin strings and listen again. When I did, I was blown away. They really did sound warmer, brighter, and all around fuller.

That sound was great for me for a while. I have never had anything but good things to say about Martin guitar strings. The problem was that my guitar was a little bit tinny. The Martin strings were too bright for the particular axe that I was using, So I knew that I had to experiment more. I wanted dark guitar strings with a much mellower, lower pitched sound. I was playing my guitar mostly for accompaniment, so I didn’t need it to project out all that much.

When I finally found the perfect set of acoustic strings, I was absolutely overjoyed. They were made by a local manufacturer who hand wound them. Hand wound guitar strings are a little bit expensive, but if you find really good ones they are more than worth it. Unfortunately, he doesn’t make the strings anymore, but fortunately I stockpiled enough for several years to come. I practice using Martin strings still, but I have my special strings waiting in a case for shows. By saving them and using them sparingly, I should be able to make them last for as long as I \need them. By that point, maybe I will have bought a better guitar.

Acoustic Guitar Tab

If you enjoy the idea of learning the guitar and you visualize yourself sitting down and playing your favorite songs for your own enjoyment, acoustic guitar tabs give you the possibility of realizing your dream. You can pick up an acoustic guitar any time of the day or night and play without disturbing your family or neighbors. Some people even play the acoustic guitar while the family is watching TV in the same room!

Tablature, or tab, is the ideal way for any beginner guitar player to learn or for a more seasoned guitarist to learn new material quickly. A basic definition of guitar tab is a diagram showing the guitar strings with the frets where the guitarist is to play the notes indicated by numbers. Quite often a guitarist approaching a new piece of music will struggle with conventional music notation whereas tab is a quick and easy way of getting the feel of a new piece. Also a pianist or other musician can look at a piece of guitar sheet music and play it right away but would have no hope of playing from guitar tab because it is only written for one instrument. Another limitation of guitar tab is that you won’t be able to learn the rhythm from it. You will need a strumming pattern diagram or, having heard the song before, have some idea of how to approach the playing of the rhythm. If you are prepared to live with these limitations tablature will be a great tool for you to learn your favorite songs quickly.

When you search the internet for acoustic guitar tab what kind of music can you expect to find? Well, the variety is astonishing. Basically acoustic guitar tab is written with the idea of the guitar supplying the basic accompaniment for the song. So if you are a singer wanting to interpret the lyrics, your interest in the guitar arrangement may be slight. The second thing acoustic guitar tab usually gives you is the notes for any distinctive melody or riff in the song – music that people recognize before they hear the words being sung. A simple example of this is the few notes repeated throughout the record of “Something” by The Beatles. Of course you are quite free to leave out or change any music to make the arrangement your own.

Acoustic guitar tabs are often fingerstyle arrangements of songs. These arrangements will not be readily available in music stores or the usual sources of sheet music on the internet. Fingerstyle arrangements can give you some added depth to your guitar playing even if you don’t utilize all the techniques shown in the tab. Finally there is one advantage to using acoustic tab for electric guitar players. You can learn the muisc for the song without having to set up your guitar and amp. You can work on arranging your song for electric guitar once you know the chords and the basic structure.

I hope I have given you something to think about if you have not given tabs for acoustic guitar much of a look so far. If you look around you will be quite amazed at the range of popular – and obscure – music available.

Guitar Lesson – How To Practice Guitar

If desire is the most important part of learning guitar(without it you wouldn’t have even started), then concentration is the most important part of practicing guitar.

I often say to people that 20 minutes of focused practice can beat, hands down, 2 hours of ‘normal’ practice, or just goofing about.

Many people are discouraged when they are told how much time they must put into practice. The truth is, you don’t have to practice all the time to be a good guitarist.

(I’m not saying you shouldn’t have time to goof off and play around. But if you want to improve quickly, you must keep playing guitar and practicing guitar separate.)

Let me tell you now…

It isn’t how much time you put into practice, it’s the quality of the practice that matters.

When I play guitar, I play to have fun, I play to perform for people, and I play for the fun of playing! That’s why I started learning guitar in the first place.

But when I practice guitar, I focus and concentrate on what I’m trying to achieve, and I work on the goals that I want to complete.

You see, if you completely focus on one thing you are more likely to do it well.

This may sound simple too to some. Some of you may be thinking “this is great, I only need to practice 20 minutes a day and ill improve more than I would if I practicing 2 hours a day”.

Well that’s not exactly true.

Its how focused your practice is that counts, not how long you practice. Can you really focus for 2 hours?

Let me give you this small example to illustrate my point.

Picture a red triangle inside a black box.

Close your eyes, and keep that image in your mind for 5 seconds without letting a single thing distract you – no other thought must enter your mind for that 5 seconds…

How well did you do? Be honest with yourself.

This isn’t an easy thing to do. Most people find this difficult at first. Its difficult to keep a focused mind like this.

I hope this example has shown you that it’s not that easy to keep focused attention & concentration for look periods of time.

But still, you must always remember that its quality and not quantity of practice that makes the difference between a great player and an average player.

This is a perfect time to tell you that you shouldn’t be spending hours and hours ‘practicing’, because you simply can’t focus for that amount of time.

If you are practicing for a solid 2 hours or more you are probably not helping your development as a guitarist that much.

A much better way of using this time is to practice in bursts.

A good idea would be to practice in bursts of 20 minutes or so. You can vary it depending on what you feel like doing, but try not to practice for long periods of time in one go. It’s not helping as much as you think it might be.

Also, it’s important to take breaks from what you’re practicing. You can do something else for awhile, go for a walk, watch TV, or maybe just play around and have fun with your guitar and loosen up a bit before you start focusing on practice again.

It is important for you to have a definition in your own mind of ‘practicing guitar’ and ‘playing guitar’.

This will keep you more focused and allow you to reach your goals as a guitarist much easier.

An exercise for you to try to help you further develop concentration is to sit silently and count slowly from one to ten in your mind.

If anything should interrupt your counting, whether it is a noise, a stray thought, or the awareness of your own breathing, you must start over from one.

Again, it’s unlikely you will be able to achieve this straight-away. It’s a hard thing to do. However how out and ‘Zen’ this exercise may seem, it will re-focus your mind on the task in hand, and it’ll help you learn faster if you can stay focused on what you’re practicing.

You should try this exercise whenever you start to feel like you’re loosing your focus.

Getting To Know Guitar Tabs

In the simplest terms, a guitar tab is a word that is used to describe a musical notation, which may contain either numbers or letters and explains to the musician where to place his/her fingers on the instrument. Guitar tabs consist of multiple lines and is often called a ‘staff notation.’ These lines, which are present in guitar tabs, each represent one of the guitar strings.

New musicians often find guitar tabs to be especially baffling in that the strings are written backwards. The highest string is found at the top of the guitar tabs, which is often difficult to learn since most people would expect that guitar tabs would be written from top to bottom instead of the other way around. In actuality, guitar tabs are written from the highest to lowest and the numbers on each line represent the guitar fret. In order to understand guitar tabs, all new guitarists need to learn string placement and how to correctly read frets.

Generally written in standard format, guitar tabs may slightly vary depending on the sheet music publisher. Even still, guitar tabs are easier to read than learning staff notation. Because of it’s visual representation, new musicians are often more comfortable reading guitar tabs than any other kind of music.

When learning the guitar, musicians will become familiar with the instrument and how it works. This can be accomplished in a variety of ways, including private instruction, informational reference books and videos. In some cases, classroom lessons may even be used to help better equip the musician to learn guitar and how to read guitar tabs. As the musician becomes familiar with the terms used to describe a guitar, including the neck, fret, string, chord, etc., he/she will also begin to easily read guitar tabs.

In the beginning, guitar tabs can be intimidating. Multiple lines and letters, numbers or other symbols may seem quite confusing. With practice and time, a guitar tab will be as easy to understand as the links found your favorite website. Few musicians can play by ear without first learning a song via sheet music, which is why reading guitar tabs is the first step that a guitarist must take before learning how to play.

If you need further information on finding a guitar instructor, check the local yellow page listing or stop by your local high school or college and ask the music director for a recommendation.

Guitar Pickups

If you know a guitar player, or live with one like I do, you probably have heard of guitar pickups and wonder what the big deal is. My husband can go on and on about them for hours, and he is always talking about new ones he hopes to get. Though I don’t really understand why the different types are indeed different, he seems to know what he is talking about, and he has become an expert at installing new ones. He even knows when they can be resold and when they really aren’t worth much any longer. I wish he applied the same knowledge to other things around the house, but that’s a different story all together.

Guitar pickups, apparently, are all different. The kind you want to buy will depend on what style of music you like to play. Each of the different guitar pickups has a different sound, and if you have the wrong type, it just isn’t going to sound right. The pickup actually picks up the sound from the string before it is sent to the amplifier. So if you have a pickup made for a country sound, it’s not going to sound right when you play Metallica songs. Though for some people, this may be the perfect way to get a unique sound in your band that no one else has.

You can find guitar pickups online and in your local music store, and you will find that the prices range from pretty cheap to oh my goodness who has that kind of money to spend on a guitar part. My husband seems to like the latter type, though I guess I can understand that. He wants a good sound and if that’s what he wants, who I am to judge? I spend enough money on my things; he should be able to buy the guitar pickups that he really wants to get.

That doesn’t mean I understand completely, but it’s not my job to understand. As long as he lets me go see the Wiggles whenever I want, and lets me redecorate the bathroom whenever I feel the urge to do so, then I guess I can’t complain about the cost of his guitar pickups, or any other guitar accessory for that matter. Now when he starts to talk about diamond studded guitar pickups then I might just have to draw the line. They don’t make those, do they?

Classical Guitar

Although the precise origins of the classical guitar are open to debate, there is plenty of evidence of the existence of similar instruments dating back as early as 5000 years ago. The idea of a hollow body with tensed strings anchored between two points is seen in many instruments, including the violin family, sitar, piano and harp; they all use the string’s vibrations to resonate the body and produce sounds. However, because the guitar is fretted, it allows pitch-perfect chords to be played over six strings, which differentiates it from the unfretted (and often bowed) violin family. The guitar as we know it today started to take shape during the Renaissance and Baroque period, when it was used mainly as an accompaniment. Cousins of the guitar are the mandolin, balalaika, banjo and lute. There are enough similarities between these instruments to relate them all, but to give a guitar a unique definition, it would be a six-string, fretted instrument tuned between low E (a thirteenth below Middle C) and the E two octaves above. Of course – these are merely the open-string tunings. Notes approaching two octaves above this are achievable through fretting. This tuning allows the guitar’s whole range to be represented on the treble clef, albeit with three ledger lines for the lowest notes.

Playing the classical guitar

The classical guitar is played in the seated position, the curvy shape of the body helping to keep it steady by resting on the thigh. Right-handed players fret with their left hand and pluck with their right, and the highest toned strings are nearest to the ground. If a purely rhythmic sound is required, the guitar can be played using a plectrum strummed across all or some of the strings; the plectrum can also be used to pick out monophonic melodies. More expert players will use their fingers, however. This allows very complex tunes to be played, with bass notes and melodies plating simultaneous. In the hands of a true virtuoso, it can sound to the untrained ear like several musicians are playing at once. Chords can still be played with the fingers, either by simultaneously plucking multiple strings with various fingers or stroking the strings and taking advantage of the instrument’s sustain. Playing with the fingernails gives a sharp, almost rasping sound, whereas playing with the soft front of the finger gives a softer tone.

Composers of classical guitar music

The rich history of the guitar and its forebears means that many composers have written music that can be played on a modern guitar with some degree of success. J.S. Bach is perhaps the most well known, and his many pieces written for the lute and even the cello and violin have found their way onto the classical guitarist’s repertoire. Bach was predated by Dowland and Narvaez, and his contemporary Scarlatti wrote some enduring music that works well on the guitar. In more modern times, Villa-Lobos, Rodrigo and Segovia have written music specifically to be played on the guitar, and Stanley Myers’ classical guitar theme tune to The Deer Hunter proved to be hugely popular.

You Can Learn To Read Guitar Sheet Music

When you learn to read guitar sheet music it will be vital in expanding your guitar playing skills. Playing by ear will only get you so far and I am here to help take it to the next step. I will show you some basic tips and tricks to help you learn to read guitar sheet music and hopefully that will make you a better and more versatile guitar player.

I will now give you a list that will show you it is not hard to learn to read guitar sheet music.

Finding the right material

Most guitar books will have some basic sheet music and songs in the front pages that are designed to help you learn to read guitar sheet music quickly. Once you have basic guitar knowledge it is relatively easy to learn to read guitar sheet music. Start in small sections, one chord at a time. Use your guitar and play the chord out loud until you know it sounds correct.

Setting your self up

You will need to be in a small quite room where you will not be distracted by anything when you learn to read guitar sheet music. The only way to know when you get it right is if it sounds right and it can be difficult do that if you have screaming kids in the room with you or loud street noise outside. Concentration is key and this will make it easier to learn how to read guitar sheet music. If you are distracted you may find a whole day can be wasted trying to focus.

Getting started

Remember what I said, be free from distraction! I cannot stress that enough. Now you’re alone and it’s quiet, find a music book with sheet music, try to pick something easy but also try to pick something you are familiar with. It makes it much easier to learn to read guitar sheet music if you are familiar with the tune. Make sure you are confident with one piece before you move on to the next.

Continue practicing

Continue to practice as much as you can, you will find that the better you get the more you will practice. When you enjoy something you will generally apply more time to it. Trying to learn to read guitar sheet music is easy as long as you practice! Once you have mastered reading sheet music then you can attempt to write you own music and that is where the real fun begins! It is essential to make sure you are confident or you will only have to go back and learn to read guitar sheet music all over again.

You Can Learn To Read Guitar Sheet Music

When you learn to read guitar sheet music it will be vital in expanding your guitar playing skills. Playing by ear will only get you so far and I am here to help take it to the next step. I will show you some basic tips and tricks to help you learn to read guitar sheet music and hopefully that will make you a better and more versatile guitar player.

I will now give you a list that will show you it is not hard to learn to read guitar sheet music.

Finding the right material

Most guitar books will have some basic sheet music and songs in the front pages that are designed to help you learn to read guitar sheet music quickly. Once you have basic guitar knowledge it is relatively easy to learn to read guitar sheet music. Start in small sections, one chord at a time. Use your guitar and play the chord out loud until you know it sounds correct.

Setting your self up

You will need to be in a small quite room where you will not be distracted by anything when you learn to read guitar sheet music. The only way to know when you get it right is if it sounds right and it can be difficult do that if you have screaming kids in the room with you or loud street noise outside. Concentration is key and this will make it easier to learn how to read guitar sheet music. If you are distracted you may find a whole day can be wasted trying to focus.

Getting started

Remember what I said, be free from distraction! I cannot stress that enough. Now you’re alone and it’s quiet, find a music book with sheet music, try to pick something easy but also try to pick something you are familiar with. It makes it much easier to learn to read guitar sheet music if you are familiar with the tune. Make sure you are confident with one piece before you move on to the next.

Continue to practice as much as you can, you will find that the better you get the more you will practice. When you enjoy something you will generally apply more time to it. Trying to learn to read guitar sheet music is easy as long as you practice! Once you have mastered reading sheet music then you can attempt to write you own music and that is where the real fun begins! It is essential to make sure you are confident or you will only have to go back and learn to read guitar sheet music all over again.

Learn to Read Piano Music with a Piano Teacher

It is very important to take piano lessons in order to play the piano. You have to learn to read piano music if you plan to be a serious piano player.

If you try to look into history, you will notice that most of the great piano players learned to play the instrument on their own. The reason may be because they were born with the talents of a piano player. But did you know that not all pianists have born talents and rather they acquired their playing skills by learning from a good teacher?

Learning to play piano takes a long time. It could take years for you to master advanced piano lessons. But as a beginner, you have to take lessons one day at a time. Don’t rush yourself because if you do, you will not learn. Haste makes waste, you should always remember that. Even gifted piano students do not learn easily.

So if you just want to learn piano for fun, find another musical instrument. To learn to play piano, you must be serious about it. If you plan to get a professional piano teacher, make sure that you receive proper lessons. This way, you can learn the right playing techniques. So when looking for a teacher, you have to get only the best.

Your piano teacher is not present at all times so you need to practice. If you want additional guidance, you can get other methods of learning to play the piano like computer software, DVDs, CDs, or even piano lesson books.

Before anything else, you have to determine the lessons that the teacher focuses on. You have to learn to read piano music. Reading piano music takes place all throughout the lessons. Piano teachers usually start by teaching you the easiest musical pieces. The level of difficulty is increased gradually and he or she will give you advanced assignments.

When you’re given an assignment, you have to do it by heart. Learn all the piano music that you need to learn. Reading music takes some time so you must concentrate on the lessons and avoid distractions. You will not be able to learn sight reading if you can’t master reading piano music.

Sight reading is carried out by giving piano students with a piece that they don’t really know and they have to play it. If you can’t read piano music, then you will not be able to play the new piece. You really need to study and practice hard. Learning to play piano should be taken seriously but you should always have fun when playing so that you will be motivated to the end.

Many people give up their piano lessons because they think they’ve spent a great deal of their time in practicing and yet they are not learning fast. In today’s modern times, people are used to instant and quick learning. But when it comes to piano lessons, you can’t rush things. You can’t make it quick.

To learn to read piano music, it requires dedication, time, and effort. You must also have the right learning attitude so that you can work well with your teacher or even when working alone. Constant practice is needed so that you will not forget your previous lessons.

Good luck in learning piano music and don’t give up easily.