**NEW** Advanced - Project Lesson Three...


**NEW** Stage I - Project Lesson Three...


Lesson three, of Advanced Stage One, is now posted in the Creative Guitar Studio members area. Over 2 ½ hours of video covering the wrap-up of the Major Tonality in the Advanced Guitar Program. 

The lesson begins with our final major scale pattern along with our last Major 7th arpeggio shape. Major triads follow-up next with all five neck patterns included in this lesson. A comprehensive Major triad drill and melodic exercise are also included to help the student integrate each pattern.

The Music Theory section introduces intervals on the neck with the popular intervals of; Perfect, Major, and Minor shapes. A combination of the use of fret-board diagrams and written assignments will help students with the memorization each shape and the shape locations across the neck.

Chord practice concludes the use of the Major 7th chord across the entire fingerboard. The final Major 7th chord shape is introduced. Exercises including rhythm guitar studies help offer a complete review of all of the Major 7th chord shapes introduced in the first three lessons of the Advanced Guitar Program.

The Improvisation section concludes our major tonality study with our final Major JamTrack in the key of, "Bb Major." A springboard melody is offered. The foundational-melody will help players get started with their improvisation studies.


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Composing Minor-key Chord Progressions

GuitarBlog: Composing Minor-key Chord Progressions...

This GuitarBlog episode explains a few of the most popular methods used in contemporary music to compose minor key chord progressions... 

Since Minor Keys are one of the most popular tonalities used today, every practicing musician should study the common minor harmonies in all forms of modern music.

This lesson begins by using I-IV-V situations and building on their relative diatonic chord use. Once these principles are understood, musicians will have more flexibility to produce options for the, "Tonic, Sub-Dominant, Dominant," chord applications. The lesson also includes an explanation on the colorful sounds of the, "Harmonic Minor," in this tonality... 

PART ONE: In the first example, a I-IV-V in the key of "E Minor" is used to demonstrate relative substitution through the Minor Keys, "VI and VII," chords. This is quite possibly the most popular Minor Key sound used in the Minor Tonality. In example two, the harmony is extended out to the, "Seventh-Quality Chords."

PART TWO: In the second half of the lesson, (available with the lesson handout in the members area), the application of examples and principles from Part One are put into action. Example three contains a chord progression that combines the use of ideas of the substitution concepts. Harmonic Minor chord ideas are also introduced as well. Enjoy the lesson!

Composing Minor-key Chord Progressions

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Steve Morse's 12 Tips for Guitarists...

Courtesy of Music Radar... 

Deep Purple and Flying Colors man reflects on 50 years of guitar playing...

At the end of every gig, Steve Morse mentally awards himself a grade for his guitar playing. The show captured on the latest live release by Flying Colors, he tells Guitarist, was a B+. You could have fooled us.

Recorded last October at Switzerland’s Z7 venue, it’s a tour de force, with the blurry-fingered guitarist driving the prog-rock supergroup through tunes from 2012’s self-titled debut album and its 2014 follow-up, Second Nature.

“We had one rehearsal,” Morse remembers, “and we got one shot. So it was a little nerve-racking.”

Morse doesn’t scare easily. At 61, the Ohio-born guitarist’s youthful looks belie a résumé longer than your arm, sprinkled with gigs that would make most players quake.

From the ferocious jazz-fusion of Dixie Dregs in the 70s, through his classical forays alongside Al Di Meola, John McLaughlin and Paco de Lucía in the 80s, to his recruitment as replacement for Deep Purple’s Ritchie Blackmore in 1994, it’s easy to see why he’s considered one of the great all-rounders of our times.

So, with that in mind, here are 12 lessons he's learned over five decades of guitar playing, and what we can all draw from them…

1. Find the right phrasing
“A lot of my heroes were English. When The Stones did Honky Tonk Women, I heard that and said, ‘That is just the coolest thing.’ Keith Richards just had that American feel.

“Pete Townshend’s rhythm playing is always amazing, and anybody who’s heard All Right Now has gotta love that guitar. You can keep on going. Led Zeppelin. Jeff Beck. Yardbirds. Clapton. Steve Howe.

“I try not to exactly take the riffs of those people, but one thing you can learn from Ted Nugent, or Eric Clapton, or even Joe Walsh, is phrasing. That’s why some guitarists are more appealing to listeners, as opposed to just other guitarists.”

2. Get rhythm
The people in the band and the audience basically want you to be a great rhythm guitarist

“I like to see a player with dynamics and control. I guess the most impressive thing is when a guitarist has mastered the instrument, but assumes a role as a support member, up until the time that they’re featured.

“Steve Lukather – one of my most hilarious friends – once said, ‘I did 400 records in LA as a session musician, and never got one job because of my soloing.’

“It’s all about the rhythm. The people in the band and the audience basically want you to be a great rhythm guitarist, and if you can be a great soloist, that’s awesome, but it’s like being able to do a wheelie on a motorcycle. It’s more important to drive safely, because that’s what you’re going to be doing most of the time.”

3. Play to your quirks
“People say they can identify my playing. There’s the fact that I change pickups a lot while I’m soloing and improvising. If you play a low G on the 3rd fret, you’re at the lowest frequencies, so you want more harmonics, so I’ll use the bridge pickup. But then, if you play up high that can be a brittle sound, so I tend to want the [neck pickup].

I love the power of using the alternate picking and having that attack be heard and felt

“Another thing that I tend to do is pick every note. Y’know, I love the power of using the alternate picking and having that attack be heard and felt.”

4. Give your guitar a workout
“If you watch the Flying Colors show, from the start to the end, I have one guitar on and I don’t change it.

“With my Music Man, it’s balanced, it stays in tune and it goes with me everywhere, because it fits in a three-quarter-size bag. I can tuck it under my arm, hand it to people on the airline. And I can also go from the single-coil sound to the humbuckers and combinations thereof.

“It’s still the original, the number one. Actually, I just put a new neck on it, because I pretty much used it up. In fact, right now, I’m trying these stainless-steel frets to see if they last longer and if the sound works.”

5. Know yourself
I’m doing a respectful dance between playing it my way and remembering [Blackmore's] way on the classic tunes

“To a certain percentage of the fans, I don’t succeed as Deep Purple’s guitarist, because I’m not Ritchie Blackmore. But to the majority of people, it’s clear that I’m doing a respectful dance between playing it my way and remembering his way on the classic tunes.

“I don’t really want to copy the exact way that Ritchie played, but I want to remind people of what he did on a solo, then take it out into a different area.

“It’s a balancing act. Imagine somebody out on the wire, and they start to slip, but they use the balancing rod to get themselves back. That’s how I feel, a lot of the time.”

6. Get into DIY
“When I built my Frankenstein Telecaster back in the 60s, there was no Van Halen that I knew. I was helping a girlfriend paint her house and her mum wisely took advantage of the slave labour available. So I suddenly had access to all these materials, like varnish and paint stripper.

“Y’know, my Tele was black when I got it. I just took it apart, stripped off the paint, varnished it up, and then took a chisel to it and started putting more pickups in it.”

7. Give the crowd exactly what they want
If I’m in front of a big crowd, it’s because of the event or because of the name and history of a group that I’m working with. I’m a replaceable cog in the wheel

“I’m a very non-presumptuous person, and I’m realistic about things. So if I’m in front of a big crowd, it’s because of the event or because of the name and history of a group that I’m working with. I’m a replaceable cog in the wheel.

“Literally anybody else could be in the same position as I am. By the dozen, there are guitarists that would be a great asset to any band I’ve ever been in, who would be available in a matter of hours. So I don’t ever think of this as my spotlight. I think, ‘How can I nail this? How can I make this music cook?’ I want the audience to have a great time. That’s all I think about.”

8. Take a breath
“My advice for good soloing? You should start with two-bar phrases. Like, play one full bar and end it somewhere in the beginning of the second bar. Put it in bite-sized pieces like that. Force yourself to imitate a vocal melody and people will like it.

“Automatically, everyone will think, ‘Wow, you’re playing with so much more feeling, so much more melody.’ And really, all you’re doing is giving a little breath between phrases.”

9. Work through your limitations
“I’m a left-handed person but I learned to play right-handed. I’ve practised almost every day for the last 50 years, and my right hand is now becoming an issue, as things wear down and don’t work right any more. It’s more difficult to practise consistently, because it’s literally painful.

“When I get on stage, I can make everything work; the adrenalin overcomes everything. But y’know, everyone has their limitations and my right hand is mine. It’s like, all the stress that I have of playing guitar is centred around that now. It’s forcing me to look at other ways of doing things.”

10. Rise to the tough gigs
“I get tested in any situation. But the tour I did with John McLaughlin, Al Di Meola and Paco de Lucía [back in 1983] was the most challenging. Originally, Al was not going to be there for part of the tour, so I was learning the material to play with them, and it was a big jump, to go from electric guitar to that really intense acoustic playing.

“Then, Al did make the tour, so I became the opening act and played with them at the end. So I was playing classical guitar on my own, in front of big audiences, then with these three guys, trading solos as fast as lightning. That was a very intense test for me.”

11. Enjoy the ride
“I remember some amazing moments. Like, the first time I opened a big show by myself, totally solo, was for Pat Metheny at Red Rocks [in 1983]. I was layering parts using my Prime Time delay and just trying this whole new approach of building up a solo.

“It could have all fallen apart pretty badly, but it worked, and the audience sort of exploded with appreciation at a very critical juncture. Lots of memories. I could write a book about all the amazing things.”

12. The music is the pay-off
Even though most people mistake me for a 20-year-old when they see me, I’ve been playing guitar for 50 years

“Even though most people mistake me for a 20-year-old when they see me, I’ve been playing guitar for 50 years. I’ve sorta based my life around wanting to do this. I had big dreams and big hopes.

“Y’know, the music that I’ve chosen to write has never hit the big time, so most of my income comes from shows, so you have to tour to pay all the taxes and divorces [laughs].

“One thing I could do without is sitting at airports with missed flights and lost luggage – all that. But the music part really is the payoff. It’s so wonderful to be around people that inspire me. I love the music so much.”



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MUSICIANS - Never Waste Your Time with These


MUSICIANS - Never Waste Your Time with These...

On this episode of the, "Guitar Blog Insider," we discuss how musicians can end up wasting their time on stupid things that won't build their; careers, their happiness, or their bank accounts. 

As a musician, there are a lot of times when we will be contacted about doing gigs, or about attending media events /interviews that will quite likely end up being a total waste of our time. There's also a lot of things that we can get wrapped up in (day to day) that can waste our time as well. Obviously, this is NOT good, and we need to learn how to pick and choose what fits our long term success goals.

Let's face it, our time is valuable. We need to use it wisely. Some things may seem like good ideas at first, but after considering the details, (if they don't benefit our own music strategy), it's a good bet that they aren't going to do much to advance our careers. Overall, we only have so many hours in each day, so we have to use our time wisely and we need to make sure that every minuet is spent effectively.

MUSICIANS - Never Waste Your Time with These

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3 Ways to Immediately Improve Your Songwriting...

Courtesy of Casey van Wensem... 

Modern songs typically use fairly simple chord progressions, however applying a few expanded chord writing concepts can actually have a lot to offer, even in the simplest of song settings...

More advanced chord types or songwriting concepts don't have to sound complex. In fact many of these songwriting tools are based upon very simple principles.

Take for example, voice leading. This technique is the art of identifying and enhancing melodic movement between chords. So while a typical musician might see a chord progression like C-G-Am as three distinct (but harmonically related) chords, someone with experience in voice leading might see not only those three distinct chords, but also three (or more) distinct melodies that flow from one chord to the next.

The best way to explore new songwriting techniques is to experiment with different chord inversions and different chord types. The most basic way to play a chord pattern would be to play each chord in its root position, using the lowest note from the popular triad chord to form the bassline.

However, if you wanted to mix things up, you could play the G chord in its first inversion, using the B as the bass note. This would create a simple walking pattern in the bassline from the C down to the A.Or, you could change the "Am" to an "Am7." This is subtle, yet it may produce just the result you're looking for.

This work of altering chords in simple ways is probably something we’ve all done as writers thousands of times without even thinking about it (especially if you play the guitar). And, as we’ll see, these simple concepts can take on many useful applications in contemporary songwriting. Here are a few examples to get you started.

1. Add linear movement to bass-lines
Ascending and descending bass-lines have become a fixture in contemporary rock and pop music, and this is largely thanks to the concept of voice leading. You can think of this application of voice leading as a continuation of the C-G-Am example mentioned above.

Jazz players will often think in this way – by limiting the movement in their hand positions to a minimum, they can play faster, tighter-fitting harmonies that move quickly and smoothly from one chord to the next. Even if you don’t play jazz, you can use this technique to create melodic bass-lines with more interesting harmonic content than bass-lines built around simple root notes.

2. Expanding upon harmonies
The concept of voice leading comes to us from the choral tradition, so it makes sense to apply this concept to harmonies. While you will often hear choirs and vocal groups singing “chords,” most choral composers don’t think about chord progressions in the same way that a pianist or guitarist might.

If we begin to use each voice (soprano-alto-tenor-bass) as its own melodic line that interlocks with the other individual melodic lines to create chords we'll achieve an expanded harmony. This also extends to larger chord types, (like; 7th, 9th, 11th and 13th).

When you expand harmony, be sure that your parts aren’t jumping around wildly from note to note. Work hard to make sure the chord tones are moving smoothly from one note to another.take your time and test a lot of different chords, until you discover just the right sound.

To harness this technique, the next time you’re working on expanding harmonies, try thinking of each chord voice not just as a harmonic element, but as its own melodic element as well.Notes will stand out more at upper registers, so pay a lot of attention to all of the highest notes. The better those notes react and form the upper melody, the better the overall connectedness will be for the song.

3. Create and release tension
Singer/songwriter Andrew Bird describes chord movements as “finding the melody in a chord progression.” That’s exactly what he did with the bridge to his song “Roma Fade” from the album Are You Serious.

On an episode of the Song Exploder podcast, Bird talks about how he played with chord inversions in the bridge while paying attention “not just [to] the outer voices […] but the inner voices.”

This helped him turn a simple three-chord progression into a tight harmonic line that “keep[s] the tension rising” in the lead-up to the chorus. Listen to how he achieves this in the video below, starting at around 1:14. 

Think of how else you could apply this concept to create movement and tension within your own simple chord progressions.

Paying more attention to chord movements will have a lot more to offer than what’s mentioned here, but these methods should give you some good places to start if you want to investigate voice leading further. Once you understand the basic principles, you’ll start seeing applications all over the place.

Plus, as you study more chord types, voicings and patterns, you’ll get the added benefit of being able to simultaneously impress and annoy your band-mates by saying things like, “Let’s apply some more complex chordal principles in that bridge to create some further tension within that IV-V-III progression.”

Casey van Wensem is a freelance composer, musician, and writer living in Kelowna, B.C., Canada. You can hear his musical work at birdscompanionmusic.com and read his written work at caseyvanwensemwriting.com.



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Recording Your Guitar Direct In...

Courtesy of SonicBids... 

There are any number of obvious and legitimate reasons for learning to record your guitar tracks direct in. When you get the skill down pat, you’ll find the approach delivers a great deal of speed and flexibility without compromising too much on sonic quality...

Nice mics in front of tube amps in good rooms still have their place in the world of recording, but the reality is that great records have been made using the ampless approach – to the delight of thin-walled neighbors everywhere.

Many companies have developed pieces of all-in-one guitar hardware to fill this recording niche. Fractal, Kemper, and Line 6 all provide options that will cover every base. Just plug into the unit, then into your sound card, and play. However, these boxes can be seriously pricey. Instead, I’ll be taking you through a few approaches that are both cheaper and modular.

What's in the box?
Let’s assume that you’ve got some basic idea of home recording and a little studio setup that you can plug into. The only extra thing that you might not have is a direct box. Also known as a DI, these humble rectangles are one of the most misunderstood pieces of gear.

What all direct boxes exist to do is convert a hi-Z (or high-impedance) line-level signal to a lo-Z mic-level signal. They are also able to do other very useful tasks, like lift hum-generating AC ground loops, a typical gremlin of the small studio setup.

It’s useful to school up on DIs – a working knowledge of the basic mechanics and principles behind them will help you become a better audio engineer. But for this specific job, they exist to optimize the volume and enhance the clarity of the raw signal coming out of your guitar.

You’d likely be seeking an active direct box, since the majority of guitar pickups are passive and will benefit from the boost that comes from active electronics. If you’re a guitarist with active pickups, the converse applies: Get yourself a passive box. Radial and Whirlwind are reliable brands.

Don’t break the bank, but don’t cheap out on a DI either. Get something built to last, packing quality electronics ensuring great sound for years.

Okay, so now you’re all tooled up. Make sure your signal isn’t clipping, and then read on!

Method 1: software
Basically, in this method, the computer recreates every step of the signal chain as plugin effects in your DAW.

Amps and pedals are conjured up using digital approximations of analog circuitry – we’ll call these amp simulations. Capturing the sonic signature of certain speaker boxes is done using a process called convolution reverb. When a raw audio signal is “subtracted” from the same signal being recorded via a mic and cab, the leftover data preserves the EQ characteristic of the hardware and room.

Think of these speaker simulations as a specialist reverb that overlays the frequency characteristics of a mic, cab, and room over your signal. In practice, simulating a speaker requires two things. One is a reverb plugin that can load convolution reverb files (more on this later). The second is a collection of files called Impulse Responses or IRs. These get booted up in the reverb plugin and contain the imprint of a cab and mic combo. They’ll be named things like “Marshall 1960s cab with v30, SM57 mic on axis.”

Sound confusing? It kinda is. Maybe your DAW is one like Logic that already packs some of this software inside it. If not, AmpliTube is an old hand with this approach. One of the first on the market, it combined several classic amps, speakers, and effects under the hood of a nice GUI (graphic user interface). IK Multimedia released several versions of it, some free, some cheap, some souped up and pricey.


A newcomer on the scene is PositiveGrid’s BIAS FX (shown above). It’s a touch pricey for an entry-level user, but the software gets mad props from touring and recording musicians, who are attracted to the authenticity of the sound and the ability to create custom amps from scratch within the software itself.

But maybe you’d rather not spend any money at all. There are some free options out there.

LePou has modeled a bunch of valve heads, ranging from Marshall to ENGL to MESA/Boogie. The LeXtac, replicating a Bogner Ecstasy, is a mainstay of mine. It offers rich, clean tones on the yellow channel, throaty crunch on blue, and very usable saturation on the red. Nick Crow and Ignite Amps also have some cool stuff worth sifting through.

TSE Audio offer some incredibly useful free options, emulating a Maxon OD808 driver pedal and Tech 21’s ubiquitous Bass Driver DI. The former is perfect for driving an amp for that extra 15 percent of tonal goodness, the latter a one stop shop for DI bass, both at no-brainer prices.

Finally, here’s a zip file of some of my favorite free impulse responses to get you started on speaker simulations. Both LePou and Ignite Amps offer free impulse response loaders that you can run after your amp plugin.

Method 2: hardware
The software method offers great flexibility – you can record your part and modify the tone later at the mixing stage. But the hidden cost is recording latency. Modeling amps and cabs in the box will tax your system, especially as you begin to layer guitars.

You already have an amp you like, and some pedals to boot. You just want to record quietly and quickly. It’s possible to buy a hardware speaker simulator that will allow for silent recording. Ranging from Two Notes’ large rack solution, Torpedo Live, to the compact Radial specialist JDX Reactor DI box, there are lots of options out there.

It’s important that the speaker simulator also functions as a “loadbox.” This means it replicates the impedance of an actual amp speaker. Preamps running without the right load can get damaged, so be careful and do your research here.

Many major amp brands offer guitar heads that are very suitable for a home rig, like Orange’s Tiny Terror. You could even do without a combo’s preamp or an amp head. Companies like Taurus are offering compact floor-based multi-channel amps, and Diago’s Little Smasher packs five watts (enough for recording) into a tiny package.

This approach will eliminate many latency issues. It’s also a somewhat cheap and cheerful alternative to getting one of the big-name rack systems outlined at the beginning of the article. However, since the sound of your amp source and hardware cab simulator are getting “printed” directly into the DAW, it lacks the flexibility of the software approach.

Think about what kind of guitarist you are and what your sonic goals are when considering these trade-offs. There is no overall perfect solution, but there is probably one that works much better for you.

That’s all for now. Happy tracking.

Alex Wilson is a multi-instrumentalist, composer, and producer from Sydney, Australia. He founded the post-rock band sleepmakeswaves, with which he has toured Asia, America, Europe, and Australia. In his spare time he writes music for short films, produces bands, and subsists on altogether too much coffee. Alex is the instructor of the upcoming Soundfly course, Ableton Live Clicks and Backing Tracks.



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Soul / R&B Licks in "B Mixolydian" [QwikLicks 13]

NEW: QwikLicks Series - Video (013)

The latest QwikLicks video is, "Soul / R&B Licks" Available in the FREE members area. Includes a PDF handout!

QwikLicks are a FREE lesson series for all membership levels at Creative Guitar Studio.com. Lessons in the QwikLicks Series will run through a short collection of guitar licks in all kinds of different playing styles...

Episode 013 runs through three Soul / Blues licks in the "B Mixolydian Mode." The licks include a; Filler idea for a two chord vamp from "B6 to B9," Coverage of a static dominant seventh chord, and using the Major Pentatonic with Mixolydian alongside of a minor 3rd. 

Sign into the website with your free members account to watch the lesson, and be sure to download the PDF lesson handout. 

If you're not currently a FREE member of the website, sign up today!