Guitar lessons in Edinburgh

facebook image facebook imge 2

Welcome to the guitar lessons in Edinburgh blog! Here we've got some lesson material mixed in with some musings on learning music in general. Feel free to join in!

 

By Guitar lessons in Edinburgh, Dec 20 2018 11:49PM

So at Guitar lessons in Edinburgh at we've talked about relying on either the right hand or left hand when it comes to doing a lot of picking or slurring, but how about not using a pick at all? Edinburgh guitar classes will often unquestionably begin with using a pick, when it comes to popular music styles; in this post we're going to talk about using the fingers and thumb of the right hand instead of a pick. The choice of any technique is obviously going to have advantages, disadvantages and limitations, and it's my natural instinct to assume that thumb-based playing will have limitations in terms of speed. This is certainly true for the most part, however if you listen to players like George Benson and Wes Montgomery using their thumb (and playing fast by anyone's standards) then this claim starts to appear false. Phenom's like this aside, one could also take the legato approach to playing with the thumb/fingers and in many ways it's no less efficient than using a pick (legato player Brent Garsed does a version of this). Then there's the question of how fast do you really need to play? If using the thumb or fingers doesn't prevent you from playing in time then does it really matter if you can shred or not? Some great examples are John Abercrombie (there's a distinct improvement in his playing after he switched from pick to thumb), Mark Knopfler, Jeff Beck, Derek Trucks and even players who are exceptionally competent using a plectrum like Joe Bonamassa and the aforementioned George Benson choose to use their thumb at times for the sake of getting a particular tone. Any good guitar teacher in Edinburgh should be asking the question: what is it that they are trying to accomplish with their students? If sounding good is truly the primary goal (seems obvious but a lot of players don't think objectively about this), and 'sounding good' can mean tone, rhythm, feel, note choice etc. then perhaps the thumb is the path of least resistance to getting a cool sound, given how many hours of practice it takes to sound smooth using a pick. For an example of some finger-style slide playing, check out my video at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r7CUJcbOD20 As always for any questions don't hesitate to get in touch at www.guitarlessonsinedinburgh.com.


By Guitar lessons in Edinburgh, Nov 2 2018 02:22PM

If you're a pick style guitarist, you're often encouraged to pick when you practice, and when you play. But is this a good idea? As with any stylistic choice, there are pros and cons to both sides, being an Edinburgh guitar teacher it's a question I've often pondered. For me personally, I've always been a pick style guitarist and so in a 'grass is always greener' kind of way, have always wondered if minimal picking would be the best way to go. So let's discuss that: The main negative behind picking is that learning to co-ordinate the right and left hand to pick accurately takes a long time. A very long time. If it was given the attention it deserves, it would consume the vast majority of any Edinburgh guitar lesson. Possibly the biggest technical challenge to any pick style guitarist; if you try and pick what you play you're essentially adding hundreds of hours to your practice time if you want to get a clean sound. It's very hard to get right, which brings us to the next issue: legato. When using a pick one has to be very careful and listen attentively to ensure 'true legato' is being used, it's so easy to unintentionally leave spaces between the notes and end up with a very messy sound. When slurring, using either slides, pull-offs or hammer-ons the legato is built in to the technique so there's less room for gaps. You also end up with some natural dynamics (listen to John Scofield!), the picked notes will come out as accents and the slurred notes un-accented, giving you some interesting dynamics without much effort. Sounds like a lot of pros, but apart from the fact that picked notes sound cool (of course they do!), you lose control when you rely on slurring techniques. The ability to fully control the attack and dynamic range of the notes is harder (listen to Pat Martino as an example) when relying on slurring. Achieving even note values is also more difficult without picking, and lastly the actual fingering required to play various melodies has to be changed to accommodate a slurring technique, whereas by picking every note you can pretty much play anything anywhere. Overall it's kind of a question of practice time, if you've got the hours ahead of you available then being able to pick effectively is definitely useful. Otherwise, learn to slur! As always, to find out more visit www.guitarlessonsinedinburgh.com

By Guitar lessons in Edinburgh, Sep 24 2018 10:12PM

At Guitar lessons Edinburgh we've talked a lot about what to practice, but often just having the motivation or discipline to practice is a challenge in itself. That being said, part of this motivation and discipline IS knowing what to practice; it's far easier to start to learn guitar in Edinburgh when you have some clear tasks in front of you. So perhaps knowing what to play is the first step, sticking to that and actually picking the guitar up must be a close second. Now one aspect of learning an instrument that isn't acknowledged enough is the technical repetition. Whatever it is, a scale, an arpeggio, a lick, these things just need to be played over and over again. Might seem boring? It's definitely a problem for any guitar teacher in Edinburgh However I believe there are two neat ways of getting around this. The first is do it while you're watching T.V. or listening to a podcast or YouTube. A lot of people choose to relax by watching T.V. (or Netflix if you're all modern) so why not get better at guitar while you're doing it? And that really works too, and you really should do it. In fact I'd argue if you want to improve at guitar it's completely crazy to watch anything without the guitar in your hand! The other method of getting around being bored is to do the opposite: concentrate and perfect every single variable within a technical exercise, and slow it down enough until your doing them all at once. Are both hands completely relaxed? Are you playing with true legato (in other words have you left absolutely no silence between the notes)? Are you using the minimum pressure with the left hand? Are you using the very tip of the finger? Are you able to vary the volume at will, or place accents on any beat? That's a lot of questions to answer, and managing to stay on top of all of them takes a lot of concentration, but in a good way, like a kind of meditation. I actually believe this kind of practice carries a lot of the same benefits as what's known as mindfulness meditation, in that your attention is on one specific thing and not distracted with all the neurotic thoughts most of us put ourselves through constantly! So, give them both a try, I promise you good results. As always, check out more at www.guitarlessonsinedinburgh.com.

By Guitar lessons in Edinburgh, Jul 5 2018 09:37PM

In the last Guitar lessons in Edinburgh blog we talked about learning the fretboard in various ways. Now you've learnt all your all your stuff (scales, arpeggios etc.), and you've learnt it really well. So if playing music is our vocabulary, then we've just learnt all the words. Which is pretty good! Now we know the perfect word to use in every situation (a skill that would undoubtedly have benefited this blog...). Think how articulate you could be if you knew every word? Still, part of the problem is that we know a lot of words but we have trouble putting them into sentences. Stepping away from the analogy for a moment, the remedy for this in musical terms is rhythm. Unfortunately most Edinburgh guitar classes won't focus on rhythm as it's hard to teach, but if you have a strong rhythm in ANY genre of popular music (less important for classical), you're probably going to sound pretty good (and having a bad rhythm will mean the opposite). This is how you're going to be able to use those big fancy words you've learnt. If you have a musical idea, like some kind of scale or interval pattern, then applying that to a hip, off-beat syncopated rhythm is, if played accurately, going to sound pretty cool. So how do we get good rhythm? Well first we need to understand and 'hear' the subdivisions. Subdivisions are simply how we divide the pulse: 2 notes per beat, 3 notes per beat, 4 notes per beat, 3 notes every 2 beats etc. Many different possibilities. Regardless of this being Edinburgh GUITAR lessons, the first exercise we can try doesn't even involve the guitar. All you need to do is count rhythms in your head along to a metronome (or your footsteps if you're walking around!). This is stellar for improving rhythm as it isn't limited to the vague 30 minutes you spend every other day practising (lazy sod that you are), but can be done while you're waiting for the bus or whenever you have a spare 5 minutes. So the first thing to do is literally just count through a bunch of subdivisions, like the ones mentioned above (so for triplets, in your head you might counting 123123123 with the 'one' being on the beat). Then try singing (if you're waiting for the bus probably do this in your head...) riffs, melodies and jazz heads along to one tempo. This is the first stage in developing your rhythm: most of us 'hear' things at the original tempo and if you're new to this you may have a hard time adjusting it to a different tempo; this process is good for your rhythm. That's all for now, more on this rhythm business next time. Check out www.guitarlessonsinedinburgh.com if you've any questions!

By Guitar lessons in Edinburgh, Jun 12 2018 12:19AM

So we've been talking a lot on the guitar lessons in Edinburgh blog about studying jazz and how much of a bloody great idea it is. However, we can take most of the same concepts and apply them to other pop music styles. A common one for most Edinburgh guitar teachers would be blues. If you want to be the best blues player you can be, you should start by learning the pentatonic scale in all 5 positions of the neck. Then practice it in every conceivable pattern, such as: ascending 3's, 4's, 5's, 6,s etc. up and down the scale. Then try connecting these patterns from the lowest note on the neck to the highest (within the scale). So, now you're done with scales, let's move on to blues progressions, the most common one being a major 1-4-5 blues (the one everyone knows). One way to get VERY comfortable with these chord changes is to play through them with a bunch of limiting parameters. How about picking one position (and as always, when we say pick one position, that means eventually doing EVERY position) and sticking to using the arpeggios in that position, keeping a constant quaver rhythm. Then how about playing the arpeggios up and down in one direction through the chord changes, without changing direction for the chord change. So maybe you're playing a blues in E and you're ascending through E7 for 8 notes (which would be E-G#-B-D-E-G#-B-D) you might end up on fret 7 on the G string, and within this exercise you'd keep going into E-G-A-C# for the A7 chord. Now you've mapped out the scales and arpeggios pretty clearly, another good exercise is to improvise through the progression freely, but only using crotchets. All of these methods get you out of the rut of sitting meandering randomly over licks and riffs (As like many Edinburgh guitar teachers, I should know, I've been that meanderer). However there is nothing innately wrong with licks and riffs, especially for blues. The famous Bruce Lee quote: "I fear not the man who has practiced 10000 kicks once, but I fear the man who has practiced one kick 10000 times" bears some relevance here. The way to practice licks in a blues context is take the cliche blues licks and practice them over and over with a metronome until you can playing them accurately and in time (and pitched correctly if you're doing bends). All this somewhat encapsulates the jazz approach to learning: get a hold of the chord changes, play the material all over the neck, and play it in time. In a word, thoroughness. As always, tune in next time for more ramblings on all things guitar!


RSS Feed