You’ve got a strap. You’ve got a sweet guitar. You’ve got a gig. Frankly, it’s only natural that while in the middle of a jam you might feel the urge to swing your guitar around your body, a tradition that goes all the way back to vaudeville*, an expected part of any high octane performance. If you’re not swinging that guitar, you might as well be a roadie or, worse, a drummer. Read more
Young, Dumb, and Full of Strum — Many of us were inspired to pick up a guitar and play because we were turned on by an advanced, experienced player we heard in our formative years. For some it was Jimi Hendrix, for other it was Eddie Van Halen, still others may have latched on to Tony Rice. In their effort to match the chops, skills, and solos of these players, many students forget that these guys play the way they do because of fully mastering some fundamental parts of music and guitar playing and this is what gave them the ability to go as far as they did. This article (and accompanying video) are the first in a series I am doing for Gear Vault that is intended to identify these crucial basics and help you improve your playing from the foundation level on up. I have taught hundreds of students over the years and have observed that the ones that take the time to really get a handle on these basic skills are the ones that achieve their playing goals most effectively.
Let’s Learn Open Chord Rhythm
The first topic in this series is rhythm. Rhythm is the most elemental aspect of music and is the thing that holds the whole band together. The most basic kind of rhythm guitar playing is open chord strumming. The first position ‘cowboy’ chords are often the first thing many of us learn when we start playing and some players never really go past them, especially if they are trying to be singer/songwriters. One of the most important skills a new or advancing guitarist can develop is the ability to strum these guitar chords in a solid and steady way. The key to this skill is the basic down/up eighth note, or pendulum, strum.
The pendulum strum is really a simple pattern of down/up/down/up/down/up/down/up across a measure of eighth notes in 4/4 time and is counted 1 and 2 and 3 and 4 and, or 1+2+3+4+. The whole idea is that your picking hand goes down on the number and up on the ‘and’, swinging back and forth like the pendulum in a grandfather clock. You can see me demonstrate this in the video and get an idea of what it sounds like. I play the open G, C, Em, and D chords on the clip but you can do this from any chord you know to any other chord you know when you practice. The big thing to strive for is keeping it even and steady, as that is what you will need to be to play well with other musicians or even deliver a solo song convincingly. Most listeners don’t notice if we drop a clam in some blazing solo but your grandma can tell when your time is herky-jerky. Go as slow as you need to to keep the rhythm strong and make your chord changes with no dead air in between.
Once you get the hang of the pendulum, you start to realize that most of the strummed rhythm patterns we hear are based on this idea and that the key to making different rhythms happen is selectively hitting and missing the strings on different eighth notes within the original pattern. Get really good at this and learning all those ‘strum and sing’ type of songs is suddenly really easy. Neglect this basic skill and you will have a gap in your groove thing. You will know you are getting somewhere with this when drummers and bass players start liking you a whole lot better. Now get in the shed, start working it out, and watch this space for more goal-oriented guitar lessons. Peace.
Visit Mike’s website @ www.mikeocull.com
Few dictionary entries are as subjective, or as relative, as the word “easy” (adj., not hard or difficult; requiring no great labor or effort). This is especially true when it comes to music, and for some reason, for the guitar. Some people will find the guitar to be easy to play right from the outset. Others cannot fathom even the most rudimentary of concepts – even if they are already music-savvy and proficient in other instruments. Read more
Understanding how to properly tune your drums is the foundation of an excellent sounding drum kit. In this guide we will begin with the tuning of the snare drum. But first we will go over a few drum tuning tips. Read more
Music should be loud. That’s just a simple fact. Sure, it applies more to rock than, say, Mozart, but you need to be able to feel the music. Preferably in your fillings as they shake loose from your teeth. But I don’t need to tell you this, because as a guitar player you know this instinctively. Read more
How many concerts have you been to? You’ve probably been to at least one, and aside from booking the band and getting the security, a lot of other work can go into it. Being the promoter and actually doing it is another thing, and I once got lucky and made a ton of money doing it. Read more
Have you ever noticed how your low ‘E’ string just never stays in tune? Wondering why it’s harder to play your guitar rather than your buddies’ slick Gibson? The secret to effortlessly traveling along the neck of an axe that melts like butter is probably in the setup. Read more
Last weekend, my band and I dropped in the studio to lay down some tracks for three songs. Recording is always a tedious process, and involves so much work from the band as well as the recording engineer. Depending on the degree and seriousness of the project, the process can take anywhere from two days to 2 months, maybe even longer.
Our progressive rock quintet is composed of a drummer, a bassist, two guitarists, and a vocalist. Everyone but our drummer does vocals, so you could say 4 vocalists. We record drums first, then guitars, bass, and finally vocals. When necessary, all five of us get in the room together to throw down gang vocals. Read more
There are as many ways to learn to play the guitar as there are students who want to play. Some people enjoy and do very well on the more formal, traditional path of private lessons, books, and study. While formal lessons are a proven, time-tested method for musical improvement, they are not for everyone, as they require a fairly large commitment of time and money to be truly effective. Many guitarists of the modern generation have turned to their computers in their efforts to conquer the guitar with mostly mixed results. Video guitar lessons, which really began with Arlen Roth’s Hot Licks tapes in the 1970’s and 80’s, have truly come into their own with DVDs and the Internet but, these, too, are not for everyone and seem to work better for more advanced students than for those looking to learn the basics. Lesson software is another popular choice and can represent a great alternative for those who wish to use it. The eMedia company is one maker of instructional software and sells a number of programs that can be of use to many different guitarists. One of eMedia’s most popular offerings is the Guitar Collection Pack, which is a bundle of four programs, Guitar Method, Intermediate Guitar Method, Blues Guitar Legends, and Guitar Songs Volume I, that provide the advancing guitarist with enough learning options to keep busy all winter. Read more
Have you ever listened to T-Pain? You know how his voice always sounds like a robot? Well, thanks to something in vocal technology called Auto-Tune, sensible style and effort to make music has been lost over the past few years. Thank god, the actual end of auto-tune can be seen on the horizon. Read more