Sunday, 24 October 2010

A background on Sweep Picking

Sweep picking can be a tough and scary subject for someone unfamiliar with the style of playing but the benefits of having a good competence in sweep picking far outweigh the benefits of proficiency in any other guitar technique.

Learning a good practical base in sweep picking can allow you to play fast and fluid guitar whilst following the chord progression of the song you're improvising over with minimal effort or thought.

As such, I feel it is probably the most useful area of guitar playing that someone interested in becoming an established lead player should study in order to gain skill and ability quickly.

The process of learning this technique isn't easy but by taking your time to slowly build your playing up, in the correct manner from the start, can turn two short months of 30 minutes practice per day into the level of skill and understanding that would typically be associated by many years of practice and development.

Measure twice, cut once.

Learning to play guitar with an alright, acceptable approach technique takes YEARS to refine into a mastery of guitar.

Learning to play guitar with perfect economy and conscious refinement of technique from the start can make the facade of mastery a quicker task,
it's tougher to conform to but much less work in the long run. Believe me, I took the long path through foolishness.

I learned to sweep basic three string shapes pretty well and could play them with decent accuracy and speed for a period of three whole years before I could even use them at all in my own playing. The limitations of my sweeping technique lay in a few party tricks alone with absolutely no outside musical application, whether it was improvisational or pre-written.

You see, the problem wasn't my lack of knowledge of sweep shapes or my ability to play them. It was my lack of understanding as to what they were and how they could fit into regular playing.

So, here I am today writing an introductary lesson for learning to sweep pick on the electric guitar that I feel is 10 times better than the technical primers I learned from and at least as good as any other material on the subject available today from any instructional producer.

These following few sweep picking lessons are aimed at beginners but are also suitable for advanced players looking to brush up on their playing.

I have structured this tutorial in a way where each post is one week of practical work with a good explanation of the musical use of the examples and how to integrate them into your normal, non sweep based guitar playing.

Assembled, this series of guitar lessons prepares you to play a whole sweeping guitar solo from Jason Becker called Altitudes. Arguably the most iconic sweeping guitar solo ever written.

On top of this, by the final week, you will be better than at least 95% of players out there who claim to be good at sweep picking.
It is the worst practiced guitar technique in the world but in the vast minority who do it correctly, it's mesmerizing.


Saturday, 14 August 2010

New Blog

Hello and welcome to the site relaunch. It has been a few years and the world has advanced and I have matured.

The site relaunch will bring many new lessons with tablature and audio accompaniments and perhaps video lessons in the near future. If anyone has any requests then I'll see what can be done.

The blog template will be meddled with continuously until it is brilliant.
Stick around.

2010 is a very exciting era for music and media quality, let's celebrate it.


Thursday, 4 January 2007

Learn to shred: Style; Joe Satriani

now you have some technical skill we are going to 
look at the playing style of Joe Satriani, and how to play like him.

Most of joe's solos use extreme legato runs,
and playing hese requires you to adapt your technique

  1. Keep your fretting hand's wrist relaxed
  2. your frethand should be parallel to the neck
  3. your fingers should be positioned straight on to the frets, not skewed
  4. your thumb should be on the back of the neck; relaxed
  5. when a finger is not fretting a note; keep it close to the frets for economy of motion
  6. when playing legato runs; you should be as relaxed as possible; to make you play better
When joe plays his legato solos he slides up and down the strings a lot.

here is a satriani type legato run

right hand muting technique:
joe has a developed muting technique using his fingers on his right hand to mute the strings
that are not being played.

to learn this practice a legato run slowly and conciously mute the open strings with your right hand fingers, do this a lot and it will soon be part of your subconcios playing

Satch harmonics.

in Joe's own words:

"You'll need a guitar with a whammy bar, an amp with a generous amount
of distortion, and a pick. You will also need to be familiar with the technique of creating harmonics with the right-hand thumb. This is accomplished byallowing a bit of your
right-hand thumb to touch the string or strings as they are picked.
Start with a broad downstroke across strings 4, 3 and 2, about four inches from the bridge.
Use the right-hand thumb technique to create two or three harmonics.
Simultaneously, reach over with your left hand, grab the bar, and swiftly but
smoothly bring it down, then up as far as you can. Hold it for a brief moment,
then quickly bring it down until the strings fret out.
This should take about four seconds."

Sunday, 31 December 2006

Guitar Sound

One thing that I get asked a lot is how do I get a better guitar sound? This is a rather broad question, the answer to which depends on a lot of factors and is very subjective. Some of the things that could influence your sound are what style of music you are playing, your personal playing style and technique, what equipment you use, and how well you use it.

It might come as a surprise to you that not many players really listen to the sound they reproduce. Many guitar players, predominately at the beginning and intermediate levels, are so enthralled by the physical aspects of playing that they forget totally about the aural side. Afterall, it is the sound that you reproduce that is “everything” when playing live or recording.

Here we will explore ten easy ways that you can easily improve your guitar sound no matter what style of music you play, level you are at, or sound you are striving for. If you implement any or all of these ideas you will improve your guitar sound immensely and the overall quality of your music. Get all the members of your band to make small improvements in their sound reproduction and collectively you won’t believe the difference it makes to your music.

1/ Tune your guitar

It is surprising how many people I come across that don’t know you should tune your guitar every time you pick it up to play it. Just because you tuned it yesterday doesn’t mean it will still be in tune today. If you are gigging you may need to tune up between songs and at least before starting every set. Always use an electronic tuner.

2/ Change your strings regularly

Everyone seems to know that guitar players should change their strings on a regular basis, but how many of you actually do it? How often you need to change them will depend on a lot of circumstances like how often you play, how much your hands and fingers perspire, how many gigs or recordings you do, etc. If you haven’t changed your strings for a while, do so and your sound will improve 100% immediately. When you do change strings, change ALL of them.

As a general rule I change strings before every second gig, and always before any recording date. If you are playing at home for your own enjoyment, then changing strings at least every three months should suffice.

3/ Use thicker strings

The thicker the gauge string you use the better the sound is a valid rule. If you play music where a lot of bending is required then sticking with a lighter set might have to do. But next time you change strings try the next gauge level up from what you are playing now and you will immediately get a better sound. One favourite trick of many rock guitarists is to use heavy strings and tune down one semitone. You may need to reset the action of your guitar if you do this, so see a guitar repair person first.

4/ Raise the action

Many beginning players tend to have the action (the distance between the strings and the frets) far too low, which results in a slight or bad buzzing sound. By raising the action only slightly you will immediately hear an improvement. The professionals all tend to have a reasonably higher than normal string action on their guitars. It takes a bit of getting used to, but it is worth it.

5/ Buy a professional model guitar and amplifier

There is no doubt about it, but professionals play the best guitars and amplifiers that money can buy. You should to. If you haven’t got one then you should begin saving for one now. Having a guitar and amplifier like your hero plays won’t mean you will be able to play like them though. It just means you will most probably get a better sound than what you are getting now.

6/ Use quality cables

What is the use of having a good quality guitar and amplifier and using cheap cables? Cheap guitar chords just ruin your sound like you won’t believe. They are not very well shielded either, which makes them prone to interference - like picking up the local taxi service or radio station - while you are playing. Your local music store can advise you on what is best. If you use effects, then obviously you will need to upgrade all your cables.

7/ Use heavy picks

Using a heavier pick, one that is more than 1mm thick, gives you a heavier and fatter sound. A light one, less than 1mm, tends to give a more thinner or flimsier sound. Many beginners prefer the very light picks, but the sooner you get used to thicker picks the better. I do not know any professionals that use very light picks.

8/ Effects

If you are a guitarist who uses effects like distortion, chorusing, delays, and the like, then using them will have an affect on your sound. Just remember to not over do it as this usually ruins the song, so use them with taste. Digital and analog type units tend to have a different sound as well, so you should try out both as many players tend to prefer one or the other. Using power as opposed to batteries in the stompboxes is preferable as well.

9/ Practise more

The more you practise the more you will improve your sound reproduction; however, it might not come overnight so be patient. Remember that the sound you make is the end product of the chain of many commands both mental and physical, but it will pay big dividends at a later date.

10/ Record yourself and listen to the playback

One way that you can improve on what you are doing is to record yourself playing and on playback take a self-critical listen. The recording doesn’t need to be studio quality, but listen and then ask yourself things like; are you buzzing any notes? Using too many effects? Not staying in time? Guitar out of tune? Solo doesn’t fit the song? There are many things you could consider when listening to yourself play. You should do it often and maybe write yourself out a checklist, then work on improving it.

You should also be listening to your favourite players (both guitarists and other instrumentalists) and working out how they get their particular sound. If there is one activity you want to be good at in this game of music, it is that of listening.

I hope those ten cool ideas get you thinking about improving your sound and help you create a better guitar sound for you, your band, and your audience.


This lesson was first published in the New Zealand Musician Magazine June/July 2004 issue.
(not by me)


Tuesday, 19 December 2006

Rock Discipline

The True Rock Discipline 

Have you ever learned a lick or exercise and stopped practicing it before you had mastered it?

your answer is probaby yes; and you're not alone; Why is that?

Why did you stop, when you know the lick you learned 
would be a killer edition to your playing?

There are quite a few reasons for it,
but the main one I call a lack of "Rock Discipline" (thanks Petrucci ;) ).
This is the point when the initial enthusiasm of learning that new lick/exercise wears off.

It is no longer so new and exciting.

This is the time when you will have to use your self-discipline and complete your practice.

The point of discipline is when most guitar players quit.
Rather than using their self-discipline to TRULY master the lick/exercise,
they stop practicing it and move onto something new; 
in doing so wasting valuble practice time and effort

We have all done it at some time or other when trying to improve your playing.
you will learn a lot of new licks but your overall level of playing will not get better.

without having a strict rock discipline attitude; you will never reach the killer level of guitar playing you want

Can you imagine guys like
Yngwie, Rusty Cooley or Petrucci quitting before
they have mastered what they are working on?

No way; they didn't  attain their abilities on guitar by being a quitter .

They have a high level of discipline and they had to work at it; 
they're only human!

You want to confront your technical difficulties and push the envelope.
You will know lots of little things but not enough to stand up onstage and impress

So what can we do about it?

Here are a few tips:
When you have decided on a new lick, set a speed goal.

Keep practicing the lick/exercise until the speed goal has been reached.
(Realise that this can take weeks, months or even years!)

Learn to enjoy being disciplined,
think of all the other guitarists not practicing correctly;
not making as much effort as yourself and feel proud of youself for each good practice session 

never take your mind off your goal; imagine how good you will play in the future
because of practice.  

Make a commitment to completion. refuse to quit.

I doth see a vision of fucking rocking all the time

Thursday, 30 November 2006

The Importance of Warmups

I have talked to a lot of technically great guitarists
who are unaware of what i am about to tell you

I often hear "I'm having a bad guitar day"or "I can't play for shit today"

and this is because they are unaware of the importance of warmups

Think about it;
You get home from work, pick up your guitar
and try to play some super fast guitar solo
It just Isn't going to happen, no chance

If you warm up correctly every day before playing
you will  be able to play faster and more
accurate than f you did not

There is no such thing as a "bad guitar day,
only days where you do not warm up correctly 
ortry to play something that is beyond your skill level

If you play some good warm up excercises;
everyday will be a great day for your playing

Q. Why does warming up make me play better?

A. A good warm up will make you play better because;

1. It will increase the amount of blood flowing through your hands

2. It will help synchronise your left and right hands,
making your playing more accurate

3. It will relax stretch all the muscles and tendons you use playing guitar

Warmup Excercises:


Play this lick slowly and accurately using finger groupings;
1 and 2, 2 and 3, 3 and 4
there is no need to even attempt speed here,
your goal is to increase accuracy and blood flow, nothing else


Play this lick slowly and accurately using finger groupings;
1 and 3, 2and 4, 1and 4

also play different chords you know to help warm up
and most importantly relax :)

Sunday, 26 November 2006

Learn to Shred part nine : basic music theory

Basic Music Theory

Music theory is an essential part of songwriting;
without it all you can really do to write songs is
mess about with chords and hope you strike lucky.
With theory you can choose a key, then write a riff using a scale
in the same key thenmess with the iming of your riff to make it unique

There are many methos of songwriting using theory, so lets go over the basics

The Major Scale

A scale consists of a series of pitches arranged in ascending order,
spanning an octave.
The major scale follows a strict pattern of tones and semi-tones
(tone, tone, semitone, tone, tone, tone, semitone)

In the key of C there are seven notes in the scale; these are (in ascending order of pitch)


these notes are referred to by numbers

C is the root note (someimes called the 1st)
The conventional music term for this is the Tonic

is the Second
The conventional music term for this is the Supertonic

 is the Third
The conventional music term for this is the Mediant
(this is becaus it is halfway between the tonic and dominant notes)

would be the Fourth
The conventional music term for this is the Subdominant

is the Fifth
The conventional music term for this is the Dominant

is the Sixth
The conventional music term for this is the Submediant

is the Seventh
The conventional music term for this is the Leading Tone
(this leads back to the tonic/root note)

Harmony guitar

You can play a guitar harmony
by having another guitar part playing in unison with you in Perfect Harmony

Perfect intervals are the unison(same note),
fourth, fifth, and octave.

Perfect intervals are formed in the major scale
when the lower note is the tonic(root note)