LEAD GUITAR: No Theory - No Thinking - Just Playing

GuitarBlog: LEAD GUITAR: No Theory - No Thinking - Just Playing...

This week's GuitarBlog covers playing lead guitar without theory or any other kind of serious thought or knowledge about the use or application of scale types. 

Jamming on riffs in the early years of learning how to solo is some of the most fun that a guitarist can have on this instrument. And, the best part is, that there is no need to initially invest countless hours of study on learning things like; multiple position scale layouts, interval theory, harmonic analysis, or how the Mixolydian mode might offer a 'new direction' against a Dorian concept. 

In fact, in the simplest sense, all it really takes to play a guitar solo is the knowledge of a few notes and some time spent jamming with a loop-pedal, or with another guitar player. 

In the early days, above all other skills, the guitarist is building the use of their ear to be able to listen closely to how phrases sound. This is an important skill of every lead player and it goes hand-in-hand with the long-term development of a musicians intuition. 

When a guitarist feels both ready, and well practiced over their years of study, the use and application music theory will eventually come along as well. Enjoy the lesson.

LEAD GUITAR: No Theory - No Thinking - Just Playing

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QUIZ: Which Classic Guitar Brand Are You?

Courtesy of Max Monahan

Which Classic Guitar Brand Are You? 
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Micro Lesson 273: "E Major" Classic-Rock Groove

Welcome to... "Micro-Lesson 273"

This Micro Lesson works through a, "Classic Rock," chord progression from the key of, "E Major." 

The progression is simple in it's harmony, but complex technically /physically in it's use of a multitude of chords from the harmony of, "E Major's," I-IV-V chord degrees. 

In the key of, "E Major," the I-IV-V chord changes work out to be, "E, A, and B." Even though this only makes up three chords from the key, we find many different chords applied throughout this progression. The chords are smaller containing on average only 3 notes. But, they move in a busy manner. This is something similar as to how Guitar Players like, "Eddie Van Halen," or, "Jimi Hendrix," played harmonies. 

After a pick-up phrase into measure one we find triads used to produce moves through the, "A, E and B," chords. Measure two pushes off of the IV and V chords of, "A and B," to resolve into, "A," for the third measure. The 3rd bar has a cool single-note phrase that highlights notes from the, "E Major," Scale. The single-tone line leads us into measure four where a Plagal Cadence occurs, (IV-I), for return back to the top of the phrase. 

Since the chord movements through these busy 3-note shapes happens so quickly, you'll need to practice the physical technique of making them for quite awhile, (especially if these triads are new to you). 

Once these chords are well memorized, along with the progressions' order and sequence, begin work at speeding up the riffs tempo. Enjoy!

Micro Lesson 273: "E Major" Classic-Rock Groove

A Quick Guide to Guitar Body Styles...

Courtesy of Elyadeen Anbar

Welcome to the Fundamentals of Guitar Anatomy. We're going to examine all the ways your guitar's sound can take shape through design and hardware.

First, I'd like to break down all of the most common body styles of electric guitars and talk about their very noticeable differences.

There are many, many variations of the electric guitar. Science has told us that in order for sound to be naturally amplified, there needs to be a chamber in which sound can resonate. Just look at the construction of the ancient amphitheaters, or the way that the human body has natural resonating chambers that allow us to use our voices, or a stand-up bass with its large, chambered body designed to amplify the resonating strings.

Then, our friend technology came along and told us that even with the resonating chambers that we had designed for our instruments, they could sound even bigger! With the addition of electronic amplification, the guitar no longer needed chambering in order to be heard.

From its humble beginnings as an experiment in resonance to the flagship image of rock 'n' roll, the electric guitar has taken many forms over the years.

All of them have their advantages – and their disadvantages. Every manufacturer has tried its own take on some of the different body styles, which include hollow body, semi-hollow body, fully solid body electric, and even acoustic electrics. Here, we'll take a look at what exactly those terms mean and what to look for in each.

Hollow body

The original electric guitars were hollow. Well, scratch that – the original electric Spanish guitars were hollow. Gibson took the words Electric Spanish and turned them into an acronym – ES. We commonly refer to these as hollow-body guitars.

Nowadays, hollow-body guitars are primarily favored by jazz guitarists for their big, warm sound. Hollow bodies hardly need anything between the guitar and the amp to sound full, but there are always exceptions and examples of people using them outside of their typical application.

hollow body guitarGibson Memphis ES-175 hollow-body guitar

For example, Pat Metheny took his Gibson ES-175 and ran it through some lush chorus, delays, and compression to create his signature jazz sound. On the flip side, John McLaughlin plugged his guitar into a Marshall stack for the wild rock tones heard on records with the Tony Williams Lifetime and Miles Davis. In fact, Joe Perry of Aerosmith plays a Gretsch Falcon. The hardest thing to do when playing a hollow-body guitar through a loud amp, or a hollow body with a dollop of distortion, is not to get bowled over with feedback.

Either way, these guitars are celebrated for their big, full sounds and can be applied to many musical situations.
Gretsch White Falcon hollow body guitarGretsch White Falcon hollow-body guitar

Solid body

Solid-body guitars were the next step in guitar development, with Leo Fender creating a modest instrument called the Broadcaster, which was then rebranded as the Telecaster. The Stratocaster came later and, in addition to the changes in the pickups, included contours in the body that made the guitar more streamlined and easier to play while standing up.

Today, the Stratocaster is still the most iconic electric guitar shape; it's associated with guitar wizard Jimi Hendrix, and many beginners end up with a Stratocaster-style guitar. Gibson introduced their own line of solid-body guitars, the considerably swankier Les Paul.
Fender Stratocaster solid body guitar.Fender Stratocaster solid-body guitar

The primary difference in tone between the solid body and hollow body guitar is the high-end bite one associates with the solid-body guitar. From the biting rhythm of guitarist Nile Rodgers to the supersonic leads of Eric Clapton and David Gilmour, Stratocasters have found favor with so many guitarists because of their versatility and their timeless tone.

But what about the Les Paul devotees like Jimmy Page, Zakk Wylde, and Bob Marley? Is it possible that the Les Paul is as enduring and adaptable as the Strat? Um… yes!

Each guitar style has its own rich history of players and possibilities, and with a powerful imagination, anything is possible. Solid-body guitars are truly the dominant species of electric guitars for their overall versatility, ability to interact with pedals and amps, and general lack of fussiness.

The Classic Gibson Les Paul solid body guitar.The Classic Gibson Les Paul solid-body guitar

Semi-hollow body

The final pillar in the temple of electric guitar production is the semi-hollow guitar. Just as the name suggests, these guitars do have some chambering in the body, but they aren't completely hollow. In an ideal world, a semi-hollow guitar will have the biting, singing tone of a solid body guitar, but can also achieve the same smooth fullness of a solid body. However, that simply isn't the reality for many semi-hollow bodies.

hollow body guitarIbanez Artcore AS73 semi-hollow-body guitar

Semi-hollow guitars can be seen in the hands of many guitarists who have especially signature sounds. For example, John Scofield has been playing the same Ibanez AS-200 since 1981! Larry Carlton helped define the sound of the '70s as one of the top call session guitarists of all time and did it with his Gibson ES-335 (in fact, Carlton is known as Mr. 335). John Lennon, Gary Clark Jr., Jack White, Dave Grohl – guitar titans past and present use semi-hollow guitars.

There have been plenty of attempts at different types of semi-hollow guitars from nearly every guitar manufacturer, and some are more successful than others. In my experience, even though Gibson does offer a fairly consistent output, there's still a fair amount of discrepancy from one instrument to the next, and, as always, I recommend playing a guitar before passing any judgment on it. But try and be discerning in your assessment of the guitar – versatility is king, only capable of being knocked off the throne by an absolutely golden, irreplaceable tone. Trust your ears!
Epiphone Dot semi hollow body guitar.Epiphone Dot semi-hollow-body guitar


acoustic electricYamaha A-Series acoustic electric guitar

While the acoustic-electric guitar isn't actually its own body type – it's simply an acoustic guitar with electric pickups to amplify its signal (we'll talk about pickups soon!) – it's worth mentioning that you're almost never going to get a comparable tone to that of a hollow body, or really, any kind of electric guitar. It’s just not built for that, and in fact, it's almost always better if you want that acoustic sound to buy a really resonant acoustic guitar and add a nice sound-hole pickup (like this one) instead.

Because any acoustic guitar can be made into an acoustic-electric, from what I've seen – and this is simply an observation, not a blanket statement – most of these sacrifice both quality of guitar and quality of pickup to sell affordable instruments in the name of convenience. So for the introductory acoustic player, here is my advice: skip the acoustic-electric section and find a plain ol' acoustic guitar that you like. When the time is right, plenty of companies make a variety of pickups designed for acoustic guitars, which will give you more options when selecting a method of amplifying your acoustic.

Elyadeen Anbar is a guitarist, writer, and educator residing in Los Angeles, CA. He has had the pleasure of contributing music and production to some of his favorite artists, and graced stages the world over.

Micro Lesson 272: "E Minor" Progressive Rock Riff

Welcome to... "Micro-Lesson 272"

This Micro Lesson takes a look at a Progressive Rock style riff in the key of "E Minor." 

The riff uses primarily "Octave Chords" (two-note chords that are played across skipped strings and are popular with Guitarists like Jimi Hendrix and Carlos Santana). Add to that, this riff also applies 6th intervals, (an inversion of a 3rd interval played between two skipped strings, similar to the octave chord). These intervals are often referred to as "Double-Stops." 

In the first measure, the 'octave chord' idea is played from the 5th to 7th positions, (notes D to E). A follow-up idea is performed on the 4th to 2nd strings using the 6th intervals. This phrase is somewhat duplicated on the second measure using the harmony of "D Major" chord. This time the octave chord moves from 3rd to 5th positions, (C to D).

Measure three, is a copy of measure one. However, the fourth measure wraps-up the riff by producing a turnaround idea with the chords of, "G" and the 1st inversion of the "D Major chord," (D/F#). 

If performing octaves and 6th intervals is a technique you've gotten used to already, (and you can play them easily), this riff will be a piece of cake for you! However, if these guitar techniques are new, you'll need time to develop the technique involved for using them - primarily muting technique. Take your time, watch the left-hand technique and work slowly until these ideas work out for you. Enjoy!

Micro Lesson 272: "E Minor" Progressive Rock Riff

4-Step Guide to Finding More Time to Practice...

Courtesy of Max Monahan

What's a musician to do? We need to find more hours in our day to practice, to study music theory and to compose - and here's how... 

There just aren't enough hours in the day. You know it, I know it, anyone with goals knows it, but we have to keep the playing field level somehow. It's no mere coincidence that maybe the greatest commonality among the most successful people in the world is their ability to milk their waking life for every usable second. And not just for the sport of it, but to achieve a clear goal.

Being a musician, one of your primary goals most likely involves playing your instrument well. As any conservatory student can tell you, if you want to be the best great good bearable to listen to when you create sound with an instrument, you need to put in some serious practice time. But you also need to survive as a human being! Eating, sleeping, paying bills, and/or appeasing your mother is a full plate, but you've got a big steaming bowl of jazz chords just waiting for you.

So what's a musician to do? You need to find more time in the day to practice, and here's how you can make it all happen.

1. Get up earlier
This is step number one. You've never going to get good at your instrument, or do anything worth telling your future children about, if you keep waking up at 11:00 a.m. Get up at 8:00 a.m., then you'll be going places. A whole extra three hours to work with. Incredible. Whether you're going to hit the wood shed first thing or use those first few hours to get your morning routine out of the way, your practicing will thank you.

Now imagine pushing this forward another two hours. That's right, 6:00 a.m. Is it even possible? Virgin America CEO David Cush wakes up at 4:15 a.m. every morning. PepsiCo CEO Indra Nooyi rises at 4:00 a.m. every day and gets into the office by 7:00 a.m. However, no one touches Fiat Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne, who's up and at 'em at 3:30 a.m. daily to deal with the European market. While it's a valid truth that different people have different work habits they prefer, by the time you've weathered a full day, your mind will likely not be at the peak working condition it reaches after a restful night of sleep.

If you want to find extra time in your day, start at the beginning... and then go a few hours before that!

2. Schedule your practice
So obvious, so simple, yet so underrated. You want to find more time to practice, but in reality, all the time is already right there in front of your face. What you need to do is delegate. Lay out a schedule to utilize the unused nooks and crannies of your day to turn them into lean, mean practice time. Take unused half-hour, 15-minute, even five-minute chunks of time and consolidate them into a solid practice block. Once that time is blocked off, just stay disciplined, as you're on the road to sweet progress.

3. Schedule the rest of your life
You didn't see that one coming, but we're playin' hardball here, folks; no stone will be left unturned. Picture this: if you're trying to maximize the capacity of a room, and you're only dealing with how you arrange the people when you've got huge, over-turned pieces of furniture lying all over, you're only fighting half the battle. Just like tucking that chaise lounge into the corner, you need to tidy up your work, play, and any other schedule you're juggling if you want to find all the time you can to practice.

Use your phone, use your computer, or buy a little Palm Pilot if you want to rock that proto-digital swagger. However you do it, you'll thank yourself in categories across the board once you tidy up your time. Your goals will come into focus, and if your goal is to become a better musician, you'll surely achieve it!

4. Examine your priorities
The final test: actually choosing what you do with your time. If you're victimized by time-leeching activities (*ahem* social media, Netflix binges), the good news is you're not alone! It's never too late or too early to change the way you spend your days. If you really want to find more time in the day to practice, it's time to trim the fat. Don't interpret this as a message that recreation is never allowed; in fact, it's crucial. Your special time to unwind is invaluable, but if you're a victim of excess, now is the time to stop.

That's it! Follow these four steps, and you'll be amazed at the time you can find to dedicate to your instrument.

Max Monahan is a bassist and a writer living in Los Angeles. He spends his time working for an audio licensing website and shredding sweet bass riffs.

Micro Lesson 271: "C Minor" Pentatonic Speed-Lick

Welcome to... "Micro-Lesson 271"

This Micro Lesson demonstrates a fast moving, "C Minor Pentatonic," Scale speed-lick. 

This lick functions along the top three strings of the guitar and runs down the structure of the lick across multiple fingerboard positions. The run begins at the 4th position off of the second string. The start of the lick uses a bend, release, pull-off idea that functions between the 6th to the 4th frets of 2nd string. The position quickly changes by application of a quick slide, and leads the phrase upwards into the 6th position on the neck. 

Here, we apply a pull-off idea with another slide that takes us higher into the 8th position. At this point, we begin working more vertically, "in-position," by operating in the popular, "8th position C Minor Pentatonic," with the addition of the, "b5" "Blues Tone." The resolution is into the Tonic of "C," at the 4th string 10th fret. 

The entire run is made up of steady 16th-notes and moves extremely fast. Be sure to memorize the entire line prior to building up your speed. You'll also need to fully comprehend the position shifts as you run this idea along the fingerboard. 

Use a metronome to slowly and perfectly build up your speed. Have fun!

Micro Lesson 271: "C Minor" Pentatonic Speed-Lick

5 Reasons to Study Genres You Don't Play...

Courtesy of Sam Friedman

It's natural to predominantly listen to and study the genre of music that we play. However, when we step away from our main style and learn some vastly different music, we tend to bring home fresh ideas that would never have been discovered otherwise...

Have you ever heard a musician say, "When am I ever going to use this?" when they try studying music irrelevant to their goals? Even though that thought might persist, there's always something to learn from other musicians – even ones that don't play music like ours.

One of the best things an artist can have is an open mind. Here are a few key benefits of going outside of the box and into the music of unrelated genres, regardless of whether they make it onto your next album.

1. Understand new angles of creativity
Picasso had a different mind from Mark Rothko, who had a different mind from Salvador Dali, and so forth. Each genre of music has different creative minds that offer unique insight. Even if you don't aspire to create experimental sounds, studying the composers behind the music will give you new ideas on how to bend your music to be a bit edgier. And vice versa: if you're an experimental composer, you can study pop musicians to come up with creative ideas to make your music a little bit more accessible.

2. Learn new rhythmic patterns
Each genre of music has a distinct rhythm, whether it's four-on-the-floor house music or odd time signatures in jazz. Imagine if you heard a song by the Weeknd featuring his sultry R&B vocals, but with a Dilpo-style dance beat to it? You'd call it a dance track. What if it had Jack DeJohnette jazz drumming? You'd call it a jazz tune. We know the Weeknd is an R&B singer, but just changing up the rhythm behind him can totally redefine the genre and feel of a song. So, if you're a great folk musician, for instance, you could benefit from playing different genres of music that utilize other rhythms.

3. Explore different approaches to melody and harmony
Some of the most interesting melodic and harmonic approaches come from non-popular music. For example, if you're a singer, there's so much to learn from eastern Carnatic singing styles. The use of melisma and trills shows up time and time again in popular music, but by really studying Carnatic singers, you can learn directly from the source, and then apply it your own unique way! Every person hears melodies differently, and there's no wrong or right way to write melodies or harmonies. If you're a jazz guitarist, maybe consider listening to sitar music to incorporate riffs and runs into your own playing – the result will be unique and culturally intriguing.

4. Build up your arsenal of technical skills
Every genre of music requires different skill sets. Certain classical musicians strive to play some of the most complex pieces of music, such as the Paganini's famous "Caprice No. 24." Free jazz drummers have a huge task of playing some of the most intricate rhythms and time signatures. Then there are musicians like Jack Johnson who play some of the simplest songs in popular music. Skill isn't necessarily determined by dexterity, speed, or complexity – but if you study other genres of music, you'll grow your skills as a technical player. It works both ways: if you're a very technical metal guitarist, you can learn to play slower and more melodically by performing softer, more tame genres of music. If you're a straightforward rock drummer who plays simple rhythms, you can grow your technical vocabulary by learning some of metal's most complex rhythms.

5. Get behind the mind of what makes other genres popular
Aside from growing as a musician, one of the most important parts of studying other genres of music is getting behind the minds of what makes other genres popular. You may hate country music, but you can't deny that country stars sell out arenas around the world. They have tremendous success, and people all over the world connect deeply to their music. Explore what makes their music click with listeners. You might often find that it's a similar thread whether the genre is rap, metal, soul, etc.

Understanding the universal language of music requires a much greater understanding of music beyond one or two genres. The more you can study and understand music that resonates, the more you'll be able to apply that resonance with your own music, regardless of genre.

Sam Friedman is an electronic music producer and singer-songwriter based in Brooklyn, NY. His music blends experimental ambience with indie-driven dance music. In addition to pursuing his own music, he is a New Music Editor for Unrecorded and is passionate about music journalism.

Micro Lesson 270: "A Mixolydian" Classic-Rock Riff

Welcome to... "Micro-Lesson 270"

This Micro Lesson explores the world of the Mixolydian Mode with an, "A Mixolydian," groove in the style of, "Classic Rock." 

The mode of "A Mixolydian" comes  from the major scale of "D Major." By starting a, "Major," scale from it's 5th degree, we create the Mixolydian mode. Since the 5th tone of the "D Major" scale is the "A" we can achieve the "A Mixolydian Mode" by playing the "D Major" from that "A" tone. 

In the case of our Micro Lesson's groove, we are playing a common rhythm of eighth-notes using double-stops, (two-note chords). The first measure of our riff begins from an open 5th string "A" with the major 3rd on the 3rd string. A harmony of suspended 4th enters in the second measure from the "D Major" chord, bringing in the sounds of the Major chord to force a return back to the tonic chord of "A," in the 3rd measure. 

The riff wraps up in measure four with the "G" Major chord entering along with an interesting sound of the "E Minor" arpeggio that pushes us back around once again to the "G Major" harmony on the last beat of "4." This allows the progression to loop or to end upon the "A Major" chord.

The riff is best performed either by "Hybrid Picking" or with the finger-picked method. This is important since there is a certain dynamic that occurs when the notes are pulled at with the fingers, rather than strummed with the guitar pick. 

Take your time memorizing the parts and be sure to get the correct feel for the eighth-note rhythm groove. Enjoy!

Micro Lesson 270: "A Mixolydian" Classic-Rock Riff

Easy Chords for Blues Guitar...

GuitarBlog: Easy Chords for Blues Guitar...

This weeks GuitarBlog covers how to make easy Dominant 7th chord shapes for use within Blues Guitar... 

Any chord type, (whether the style of music they are being used in is; blues, jazz, country or rock, etc.), can be broken down into much smaller chord voicings.  The smaller versions are pulled from within the larger chord patterns.

These smaller versions, are not just used by guitar players who want to have easier shapes - during the time in which their skills are developing. These smaller patterns are also excellent for playing when in larger band settings. Especially when there are more instruments playing a rhythm part in larger musical situations, i.e., big band (6-piece or more), and larger musical ensembles. 

In this lesson we are going to make a study of how the larger blues chords (Dominant 7th), can be chopped down into smaller chord fingering versions. These smaller chord shapes can be used as replacement patterns for any Dominant 7th chord, at any time, (in any style). Enjoy!

Easy Chords for Blues Guitar

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Is the Truss-Rod Really the Problem With Your Guitar?

Courtesy of Matthew Wendler

The truss rod is the perennial scapegoat of guitar problems. The reason for this may be the fact that it's easy to access and requires only one tool to adjust on most guitars. 

Almost every guitar is going to experience problems through it's life-time related to a truss rod. For some guitars, this can even occur on a seasonal basis. Unfortunately, some guitarists tend to blame the truss rod for everything from weak tone to faulty tuners.

The only problem that any guitar will have that can be fixed with a truss rod adjustment is neck bowing. Humidity and temperature changes are most often the primary causes for bowing, and any piece of wood is going to be affected by them (just like a door that tends to stick in the summer, but not stick in the winter).

If you think you have a truss rod problem, there's only one positive check that will rule out all other factors: play every single fret on every single string with the guitar unplugged. If you hear buzzing, or if the fret fails to sound a note, then your guitar neck has very likely bowed upward toward the strings. But, before touching that truss rod, you'll need to rule out any issues with surrounding frets which may be in need of fret re-crown or fret replacement.

If the frets surrounding the localized buzz issue have been ruled out, this more than likely means that you need to loosen the truss rod. Grab yourself the appropriate Allen key and give it a turn to the left. (Truss rods work on the "lefty loosey, righty tighty" principle, like virtually all screws and bolts.)

Keep in mind that whenever you're adjusting, the truss rod will never need a full turn. In fact, it probably won't even need a half turn. Improperly adjusting the truss rod can irreparably damage your neck, so if you're uncomfortable with that risk, it may be best to leave the repairs in the hands of a professional.

The other problem that adjusting the truss rod can fix is when your neck bows away from the strings. While you won't experience any fret buzzing, you'll notice that your guitar's strings have risen away from the neck significantly. Typically, this is most noticeable between the seventh and 12th frets. In some cases, you'll actually be able to see the curve in the neck if you look at it in profile.

You've probably guessed that this means the truss rod now needs to be tightened. This fix is the same as before, except now you're turning the rod to the right. If the key isn't turning the rod, then you shouldn't try to muscle it. This may indicate a problem that requires neck removal. That's not the end of the world, but it's definitely something you should have done professionally, (don't try this at home). Also, if you strip the bolt on the truss rod (hard to do, but possible) your guitar will be in need of some serious repairs.

Apart from neck bowing, there are really no other reasons that you should touch the truss rod. The task should need to be done, at most, a couple of times a year depending on where you live.

The last thing I'll note is that truss rods should never be used to adjust the action on your guitar. Raising the strings for slide guitar or lowering them for shredding should be accomplished with bridge adjustments only. Save your time and money by getting an Allen key and adjusting your neck by yourself. Just be sure that the problem with your guitar really is neck bowing first.

Matthew Wendler is a blogger and multi-instrumentalist from New Jersey. He specializes in guitar, bass guitar, and bagpipes, and is passionate about writing both professionally and for enjoyment.

6 Common Hurdles of the Novice Songwriter...

Courtesy of Russell Sheffield

As an aspiring songwriter, you've probably learned that writing a complete song isn't as easy as you may have thought...

Whether it's a chorus that sticks in your head for days, an infectious hook, a toe-tapping beat, or an ambient synth that somehow both warms and chills you at the same time, there are certain musical moments that make you stop in your tracks and wonder: how did they write that? As music fans, we've all been there. It's easy to forget that these moments all started out the same: as ideas.

 You've spent hours writing and tinkering until all of a sudden, you're in a completely different place than when you started, but no further ahead. You might find yourself feeling that you've wasted time and quickly become frustrated. Well, you're not alone! The truth is that more often than not for new songwriters, you are your own worst enemy. Luckily, there are a few fundamental steps you can take to turn these obstacles into strengths!

1. Lack of creative vision
To continue on the "how did they write that?!" moment, the answer is that the songwriter had a creative vision of what the song should be and followed through. Perfecting this takes time and practice. Lots of songwriters talk about the song that they heard in their head before they endeavored to create it. Spend some time thinking about what your sound means, what you aim to achieve when it's done, and what type of vibe you'd like it to convey. Write these notes down so you can help yourself stay on track.

Especially when you're first starting out, you need to set goals. Goals can be as simple as implementing that new F# chord that you learned, all the way to developing an impactful bridge that brings the song to an unexpected climax. As a novice songwriter, you need to set simple, reasonable goals for every writing session.

Key takeaway: Make notes that help you stay on track about your vision for the song when you start your session. Set achievable goals to measure your success in the short term, and you'll dramatically improve your chances of finishing with a song you can be proud of!

2. Imbalance of inspiration vs. discipline
A common misconception is that you need to only wait for inspiration to strike and the perfect song will just spill forth from your fingertips. What many people don't see are all the songs an accomplished songwriter has on the cutting-room floor. It took a lot of trial and error for some of your favorite songs to come to light.

Don't wait for the heavens to pass along the perfect chord progression – improving your craft and understanding the process takes discipline, and the lessons that come with writing a bad song or two. You're going to have days where you feel like nothing has been accomplished. Trust us – this is exactly what is supposed to happen. But if you stay focused, diligent, and disciplined for your craft by working hard every day, the chances that those magical moments will grace you are that much higher.

Key takeaway: Be patient with yourself, and put your head down and do the work. Improve your craft daily, and don't get frustrated if those magical moments of inspiration aren't knocking down your door every single day.

3. Sharing paralysis
A major hindrance for many artists early on is the instinct to be overprotective of your work, so much so that lots of great music goes unheard. You may be deathly afraid of criticism, and there's probably a reason for that – it's not because you're an "artiste" and people just can't relate. It could be because you lack confidence, and the best way to build confidence is through critique from your peers. Begin by simply showing your work to people you trust the most (family, friends, music teacher), and slowly you should become comfortable enough to seek the opinions of a larger audience.

Don't get stuck in the sharing paralysis trap and wake up five years in, and notice your cat is your only fan because you couldn't work up the courage to share your art!

Key takeaway: The ability to show off your work and accept critique will be a fundamental step forward in your songwriting process and will open the doors to potential collaborations. Collaborating with other musicians will help open your eyes to new songwriting methods and techniques, adding depth and structure to your work!

4. Never celebrating your growth
It's common for songwriters to want to take down and erase older works. Sure, you've grown past them and no longer feel they represent your voice an artist. That's fine. But don't forget to take a second to appreciate your growth and progress as an artist. Old songs are a snapshot of your past and were crucial to helping you develop into the artist you are today.

We would urge you to never delete these oldie but goodies. Keep them backed up somewhere, because you never know when an old idea could be revamped. Let's be honest – who wouldn’t kill to hear young Tom Waits' bedroom demos?

Key takeaway: Celebrate your growth as an artist, and don't hide from your past or hide your past work! You've put hours into your craft, and unlike a lot of crafts, you can quite tangibly hear that growth in your songs. Take a moment to give yourself a pat on the back and be proud of your old songs!

5. Being disorganized
So you've gained confidence and a long list of friends to collaborate with – amazing! But now you've got so many brilliant ideas in progress with so many different collaborators that it's impossible to keep track of everything.

Does this scenario sound familiar? It's 2:30 a.m. You just got home from an amazing show and are getting ready for bed, when a genius melody comes to your head. You pick up your guitar and record it into a voice memo so you don't forget. Fast forward two days later – you've recorded four different parts for the same song on different "memos." You sent a clip to your bandmate across town, and she's sent three different files back for you to add into the song. You're trying to piece it all together, but it's a mess and you're losing valuable creative time by trying to figure out the logistics of your messy demoing system.

Although not the most exciting component of your creative process, figuring out a way to neatly and quickly organize your progress and ideas is one of the most vital keys in becoming an efficient songwriter. Invest some time into figuring out what works best for you and your collaborators. Once you've landed on a format, you can fine tune as you go along until you're a well-oiled music making machine.

Also, please back up your files on a reliable hard drive. Please, please, please!

Key takeaway: In order to maximize creativity, it's extremely important to stay organized. Stand-alone apps like Trackd allow you to focus more on being creative by providing all the tools you need for your songwriting process.

6. Forgetting the most important rule
Whether songwriting is your hobby or your profession, you should never forget the reason you do this: to have fun. Don't take yourself too seriously, and understand that you're going to have good days and bad days. Take both in stride. Embrace your gift and never lose sight of the bigger picture.

Key takeaway: If you're not enjoying yourself, you're doing it wrong.

Let's recap: set your goals, be patient, seek constructive criticism and new collaborators, celebrate your progress, stay organized, and have fun! Master these too-often-overlooked basics, and you'll find yourself with greater creative capacity so that you can focus more on the fun parts.

Russell Sheffield is the co-founder of Trackd and a music die-hard. He’s a drummer by day and by night he manages some incredible bands. Before Trackd he had success in FinTech and design. Russ’s biggest skill is uncovering amazing talent and linking people together to get huge results.

Micro Lesson 269: "B Minor" Rock-Lead Riff

Welcome to... "Micro-Lesson 269"

This Micro Lesson covers a fun to play 'rock lead' style riff in the key of, "B Minor." 

This line is based off of a middle of the neck pattern of primarily the "B Minor Pentatonic" scale. In measure one we begin off of the 3rd string at 9th fret and use a funky 16th-note pattern from the 7th and 9th frets. It builds up the neck higher and leads into the next bar. 

In measure two, the high "B" at 2nd string 12th fret slowly walks us back down the scale all the way to the 4th string root note at 9th fret. The next measure introduces itself by way of a very similar feel as we saw in measure one. The tail end of the 3rd measure walks down the scale and sets-up the final measure where we find a double-stop phrase pushing the chord harmony of "G" and "A" power chords. 

The ideas in this riff are very common sounding and are therefore not overly difficult to perform. The speed of the suggested tempo may be tough to reach for some players initially, but with rehearsal of the ideas, the tempo should be able to be reached without the need for long-term effort. 

Take your time with the parts, and use a metronome to build the speed. Enjoy!

Micro Lesson 269: "B Minor" Rock-Lead Riff

5 Ways to Extend the Life of Your Guitar...

Courtesy of Max Monahan

Taking care of your instrument can be easy, but if you're not careful, you could be unknowingly shortening its life span. Follow these simple tips, and your guitar will live a long, happy life...

Whether it's the Strat you've had since you were 12 or your newest, hottest splurge, that guitar is your baby. You want to care for it as best as possible to maximize its life span, and to maximize its value if you ever (God forbid!) sell it.

1. Store your guitar properly
Rule number one: make sure your guitar is properly stored, as this will deter the vast majority of problems that your instrument may otherwise face from an inhospitable environment. The damaging elements can be broken down into three simple groups:

- sunlight, which can wear away at the paint job on your axe
- extreme temperatures, which can warp the wood
- humidity, can warp wood and cause oxidation to the hardware of the instrument

Aim to keep your instrument indoors at room temperature unless you want to use it to play racquetball this summer. It's also always an excellent idea to keep your instrument in its case. It's a lot of fun being out and about, but you and your guitar both agree there's no place quite like home.

2. Make sure you're cleaning your fret-board correctly
The common standard for good fret-board hygiene is organic almond oil. If you take it to any guitar shop, they'll mostly likely be using pure organic almond oil to clean your fret-board, and if you decide to do it yourself, you should likely do the same.

Please never use any abrasive solutions to clean your fret-board. Or, any part of your guitar. Pure organic almond oil can be purchased at any health-food or professional cooking shop or online.

3. Clean your pots
Pots, for any reader that may not know, is short for potentiometer, commonly referred to as a knob (i.e., volume/tone knobs). If you haven't yet, it's a good idea to take off your instrument's back plate and get to know the inner workings of the hardware.

One thing you'll find inside your guitar's back plate is its pots. These, just like any other part of the guitar, can get dusty and need cleaning over years of use. Any dirt build-up can result in the crackling you hear from some instruments when adjusting their volume or tone knobs. Thankfully, this is a simple fix: just apply a little tuner cleaner available at any Radio Shack, or even any Walmart, and voila – your pots are good to go!

4. Strap locks
This one may not be necessary for every musician reading this, but for all my hip, young rock 'n' rollers out there, there may come a day where you thank your lucky stars you invested in strap locks. These little miracles will make sure your guitar or bass never haphazardly falls out of its strap and onto the unforgiving ground. An excellent idea if you're a hard-rocking performer, this is also certainly a valid purchase for any guitar you cannot afford to drop.

If you still aren't sold, strap locks come in a variety of levels of price and quality. Buy a full metal lifesaving device for your vintage Les Paul, or just drop 50 cents on a plastic ring that I've seen save many an instrument. If you care about your axe and see close calls in your future, check out a pair of strap locks!

5. Play it
This should be an easy one: play your instrument regularly. Give your instrument the attention it deserves. If you don't see your guitar for weeks at a time, you're not going to know if anything is wrong. I once left a bass leaned up again a wall for a weekend with its weight resting on one of its knobs, and guess what? Now that knob is just there for decoration. This is also how gradual warping can happen, or worse yet, you slowly drift away from music and start following sports.

So give your instrument the long, healthy life it deserves. Take care of your instrument, and it'll take care of you.

Max Monahan is a bassist and a writer living in Los Angeles. He spends his time working for an audio licensing website and shredding sweet bass riffs.

Micro Lesson 268: "G Major" Bossa-Nova Groove

Welcome to... "Micro-Lesson 268"

This Micro Lesson takes a run through the Latin style's, "Bossa Nova," groove with a short progression from the key of "G Major." 

This Bossa groove functions around the tonal center of a "G Major 7th" chord built from off of the 6th string at the 3rd fret. The color of this chord changes from the major 7th into the major 6th in measure one. It applies quarter-notes up front on beats 1 and 2 with eighth-notes applied to beats 3 and 4. 

In measure two, we flip the rhythmic pattern with the eighth-notes coming up front and those quarter's falling on beats 3 and 4. The harmony also changes. The new chords here are that of "Am7" and the "Am6." They operate to produce a shift away from our tonic chord and bring in the third measure. 

In measure three we return once again to the same groove and harmony found from the first measure. In measure four we switch things up for the arrival to the end of the piece and proceed to wrap-up with the keys V-chord to bring around the progression back once again to the top. 

This entire progression revolves around the Bossa-Nova groove and that should be the initial focus once the chord types are fully understood. The performance can be done with finger-style or by way of hydrid picking. The application of a strictly flat-picked style is not recommended. 

Take your time developing this groove if it is new to you. The chords and technique for the rhythm may be foreign to some players who have little to no exposure to Latin groove. Use a metronome to develop speed. Enjoy!

Micro Lesson 268: "G Major" Bossa-Nova Groove

7 Habits of Highly Successful Musicians...

Courtesy of Max Monahan

If you want to become a successful musician, the only way to achieve that goal is through a serious and realistic practice attitude. 

It's no easy feat – for most people who pick up an instrument the activity stays a hobby, or a dusty Stratocaster in the corner of a room. Undoubtedly, the biggest factor in this is whether you're truly willing to put in the work to become a proficient musician, but knowing how to practice can lead you to better results faster.

Research has shown that developing a skill is nothing like cramming for an exam. It's a capability that slowly blossoms to maturity through consistent use, like working out a muscle in your body. That means, despite what your spam folder may tell you, there's no cheating your way to the top. This statement is true no matter what your specific goal is regarding your instrument. It may not be as straightforward as nailing a solo or achieving a certain level of proficiency; you may strive to be a more expressive musician or bring out a certain stylistic component of your playing.

No matter whether you're practicing your sweep-picking or your skills at a digital audio workstation, your level of success will depend on the practice that you put into your skill, even more so than innate talent. By practicing efficiently and using tried-and-true methods, you can stack the odds in your favor to reach success in your field. Cultivate these practice habits exhibited by all successful musicians to play your best and achieve your goals.

1. Operate on a schedule
Charlie Parker saw the level he wanted to play at and famously practiced upwards of 12 hours a day to reach that level. Now, you don't have to practice for that many hours a day, but you do need to apply the same kind of structure and discipline. To reach maximum potential, keep a structured schedule and stick to it. Successful musicians set their goals in stone and don't quit until they've been reached.

2. Break goals into manageable chunks
The most effective way to achieve your goals is to break them down into small, manageable, actionable steps. Did you ever take piano lessons and receive stickers for each completed exercise until you completed the whole book, a feat that previously seemed impossible? Surprise! Your teacher was training you how to become a successful musician. Next time you decide to practice, don't just wander. Set a path.

3. Warm up every time
This is an easy one! If you jump right into a grueling workout, it's likely you could hit a snag and walk away frustrated. Every athlete has a warm-up, something to get not just their body, but also their mind, in the zone. They do it at the beginning of every practice, and you should, too!

4. Record yourself
No great musician ever shied from his or her shortcomings. Quite the opposite. These are the areas you patch up to become an air-tight, sight-reading, pitch-perfect, musicianship machine, and the best way to find these areas of imperfection is to record yourself playing. Your recordings will clearly lay out your progress so you can hear your every note as many times as you want. Recording yourself will not only show you your shortcomings, but you'll be able to fully appreciate the fruits of your labor as you progress as a musician and your skills grow.

5. Sing your part
If you feel that your progress is becoming stagnant, an extremely useful technique is to put down your instrument and sing your part. This will remove any instrumental inhibition you may have and take you straight to the music. You'll actually have to feel the pitches firsthand instead of just pushing through them. Plus, you'll never know when you have to bust out those singing chops!

6. Switch up your techniques
Don't waste your time on mediocre results, and don't get completely stuck in dated methods. You're a developing musician and your regime should develop with you. The biggest, most successful companies – even those that seemingly couldn't operate any more efficiently – are constantly pouring resources into improving their processes. Lean on proven successors, but never become completely content. Periodically reevaluate your methods, and in doing so, you'll continue to learn about yourself.

7. Keep a clear head
Above all else, the goal of practice is to improve a skill by addressing and correcting mistakes in an effective nature. Using the above techniques, you can lay out clear goals with methods tailored to your own skill set and give it your all. When you're in the middle of a grueling practice session for a big performance, the most important thing in that moment can often be remembering to take a deep breath and remain calm. Once your have your path laid out, all that's left is to keep a clear head and focus.

As explained by world famous cellist Yo Yo Ma, you'll find that after you've taken care of all the logistics and organization, you'll reach a higher level of focus than previously thought to be possible. This is the state where you achieve greatness – where successful musicians live. Great practice habits all aim to minimize interference, to drive your progress towards your goal on as straight a path as possible.

Don't be afraid to set a big goal. Find the techniques that work best for you, work hard, and implement what may be the most important secret of them all... enjoy yourself!

Max Monahan is a bassist and a writer living in Los Angeles. He spends his time working for an audio licensing website and shredding sweet bass riffs.