Figure it Out Friday's: Lesson 005 - Part Two

Figure it Out Friday's: Lesson 005 - Part Two

Welcome to, "Figure it Out Fridays: Lesson 005 - Part Two," Ear Training Guitar Lesson. 

Here's the Answer Key for, "Figure it Out Fridays," Ear Training Lesson 005.

In this series, we study how to transcribe a new guitar melody or chord progression every week. Musical ideas are released on Tuesday, with the Music and TAB's released that same week on Fridays. Do your best on the days "in between" to learn the different guitar parts. 

Up-Load your guess of Tuesdays guitar idea (from the part one lesson) to your YouTube channel. Share your examples on; GooglePlus, Twitter and on FaceBook. 

Be sure to check-out the "Part Two" video released every Friday to learn exactly how Tuesdays guitar part looks charted to TAB and in Music Notation. Enjoy the series!

Figure it Out Fridays: Lesson 005 - Part Two

5 Tips for Memorizing Any Piece of Music...

Courtesy of Elyadeen Anbar

Memorizing music is invaluable in the eternal quest of learning and growth as a musician...

From strengthening your ears to widening your understanding of composition and song structure to recognizing common musical patterns, there's no quicker way to develop into a well-rounded musician than to leave your charts at home and memorize the music you play, practice, and perform.

Why study how to memorize music? For one thing, you can’t truly know a song until you no longer need to read it off of a piece of paper. As rhythm players, once you can get off the page, you’ll be able to anticipate changes and sit comfortably in the groove, instead of reconciling your trouble spots and letting them dominate you.

As lead players, a song won’t really come alive until you’re able to weave your way through the changes without constantly having to look at a piece of paper for a roadmap – when the song is under your fingers and in your ears you will be "at one" with the piece.

So here are five tips on how to quickly memorize any piece of music.

1. Understand the whole piece
Never try and jump into learning a composition piecemeal if you aren’t familiar with it yet. The learning process will be smoother if you know how things come together in the long run. Do this by listening to recordings of the piece first – no instrument required. Just listen.

Hear the drums, the bass, the guitar parts. Listen to where everything is located in the mix of the recording. Listen for "where" the punches are an how the rhythm guitar has been placed in and around the beats. Visualize where on the guitar neck it "might" be performed.

And, once you're on your 2nd and 3rd listens, start to anticipate which song sections are going to be coming up next. This period is essential for your familiarization. It is sometimes called, "critical listening." And, is vital for understanding the general form of the piece.

2. Identify a song’s basic form and changes first
You’ll want to familiarize yourself with all the moments when the song changes, or where you hear repeated /thematic material. Here’s where you really get to put your ears to work.

NOTE: For those of you who aren’t familiar with reading music, if you are interested in starting to learn to read traditional notation, check out the material of the Creative Guitar Studio: Introductory and Intermediate courses, as well as, the Music Reading Comprehensive program.

If you do have a chart, the form of the piece will be quick to understand. Read along to see what you can use from the written material. Is there anything unique about the form? Or, is the song a simple "Verse and Chorus?" Is the Chorus almost identical to the Verse? Which chords are different? Is there a guitar solo? Will you play the album version of the solo, or will you just improvise something? Is there anything unique in the piece, like a breakdown or instrumental section? All of these song section concepts are quickly recognized if a chart is readily available. And, if there is no chart, make a quick "Lead Sheet or Lyric Sheet," of your own.

More complicated musical style, such as jazz standards, will often have charts with the melody and the chords written upon a "Lead Sheet," and to truly understand the song, there’s no substitute for knowing both parts. In fact, it is highly recommended.

Is the song in verse-chorus form, or an AABA, or a 12-bar or 8-bar blues of some sort? The more you can quickly recognize these types of song structures for yourself, the easier it will be to keep learning new music.And, to learn new music faster.

3. Don’t always start memorizing music from the beginning
In fact, you can start learning a song at wherever in a song, or in whatever section of a song that you want! If you've already worked through a song using the guide above, you will understand the basic form, and you can work within the road-map of the material.

If there’s a hook that’s already in your head, or just a few bars of the chord changes that you happen to recognize, you can start there. You’ll be chopping up the music anyhow, so don’t worry about that yet – in a short time, you’ll know it all like the back of your hand. and, once you’re done learning all the pieces, your intuition will always pull you along through the piece. It's amazing what a little time and concentrated rehearsal can do.

4. Break it up into small, manageable blocks
Treat each block of a song as its own unit to be learned, understood, and explored in a highly detailed manner. Let’s say, for example, that you’re setting out to learn a piece of music like the Miles Davis classic, "Tune Up."

This was one of the first jazz standards I ever learned. A quick listen to the song gives you the basic gist of the form and melody, and then looking through the chords and melody on paper will provide you with some great clues for how to think your way through it. Here’s a chart to follow along with.

First of all, according to the chart, this is a 16-bar piece. No bridges, no first or second endings. We begin with a melody line and a harmonic pattern, the classic ii-V-I progression, which starts in the key of D for the first four bars, and then repeats in the second four-bar phrase, but down a whole step to the key of C.

The third set of four bars is very similar to the first two, but introducing some variation to the melody – and briefly, in the harmony. The last four bars function as a turnaround, to bring us back home to the top of the tune, with the chords to be played as a soloist improvises, weaving through the harmony.

Just understanding the functions of these chords will help to improve your understanding of a piece like this, and while "Tune Up" isn’t the most complicated jazz standard, using this type of “break-it-down-and-put-it-back-together” mentality will help in the deciphering of other great composers such as George Gershwin, Cole Porter, and Antonio Carlos Jobim.

5. Put it all together like a jigsaw puzzle!
When the tune is in your head. You can leave the music at home. Use your ears. If there are discrepancies between band-mates on what the correct chords or melody are, the recordings always trump sheet music.

But in the end, what’s most important is how you decide to do these pieces of the learning strategy together. If you comprehend the sections, layout and flow of the piece, you know the foundation of the song and you can become a strong asset to your band, while continuing to develop your own learning and musical growth! And that’s what it should be all about.

If you don’t yet know how to read music, don’t be discouraged. Of course, some of the greatest players didn’t have a clue about how to decipher tiny black dots on a page. But if you’re looking for a quick shot of inspiration, start by marveling at the fact that humans created and developed a system of communicating sound and rhythm, from paper. Without needing to know any language, only the occasional markings to specify dynamics, two people who have absolutely nothing in common culturally and linguistically can learn the same composition from the same piece of paper. Music truly is the language of the heart – why not learn to speak it?

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.

5 Life Lessons You Can Learn From Playing Guitar...

Courtesy of Mark Manson

What we choose to do with our time determines the lessons that inform our lives and values. And, believe it or not, playing guitar can offer us a lot of lessons for life...

If you're reading this then there's a really good chance that back in high school you played guitar. That was my thing, my identity, I was the rock guitar guy. I had the long, greasy hair, the big baggy band tour shirts. I worshiped guys like Stevie Ray Vaughan and John Petrucci. It’s how people viewed me and how I viewed myself. We all need a mold to fit to in order to get us through high school and that was mine.

I was pretty good at guitar too. I practiced several hours each day, I knew all of the scales and a lot of famous runs, I'd study all of the techniques and tricks, and I could play pretty fast and I could definitely play hard, slow and smooth, in various styles of music.

What we choose to do with our time determines the lessons that inform our lives and values. For instance, if I had been a star high school quarterback, I’m sure I would have learned all sorts of interesting lessons about teamwork, enduring physical pain, and trust in teammates.

But instead, I spent most of my time alone in my room practicing harmonic minor scales. That taught me a different subset of life lessons, and those lessons help define who I am today.

1. There’s a fine line between passion and escapism.
What we’re passionate about is often directly correlated to what our biggest emotional struggles in life have been. Are bodybuilders passionate about bodybuilding? Or do they have deep-seated self-image issues? Are sports fanatics really that crazy about their team, or do they latch onto it because it fills a need for loyalty and camaraderie in their lives?

Sometimes it can be difficult to know if our love for an activity is healthy or a form of neurotic behavior or escapism. Often, it’s both. Passion? Or a healthy neuroticism? What's the difference? 

Music was my passion and guitar was my escape. It took me many years to realize that. While I enjoy guitar, I’m not in love with it. Music, on the other hand, you’d have to stab me in the ears to ever get me to give it up.

I was the new kid at my high school. I had no friends and felt out of place my first year-and-a-half there. It also happened to be the first time in my life that I was forced to confront my social anxiety (or perhaps where my social anxiety began, it’s hard to say). It didn’t help that I was overweight, poorly dressed and terrible at sports (in Texas, being bad at sports is practically offensive to people).

I struggled to make friends and be accepted. Guitar helped me do that. It was the first thing I found that I was good at and that was also cool. Therefore I adopted it as my identity.

2. Quantifiable improvement is useful as a tool but not as a value.
I approached the guitar the way a nerdy kid approaches a Rubik’s Cube: it was something to be solved logically, then perfected. My perception of what made a guitarist “good” was entirely measurable — how fast could one play, was his technique clean, had he mastered various scales and harmony? — and I soon placed my self-worth on my ability to do this.

Approaching music in this way is a great way to build technical skill and impress people here or there, but it makes for a really crappy musical experience. For instance, the video below. Watch it to at least the 30-second mark, and you’ll see what I mean:

This video is from the 2009 Guitar Idol competition — and yes, Guitar Idol is what it sounds like: an international talent show. This guy is one of the finalists and he reminds me a lot of myself: treating music as a physical and mental exercise rather than an emotional one.

He has his goofy melody in an obscure scale, his augmented runs, his tapping, his great technique… and he’s boring as shit to watch. I dare you to listen to all of it. I bet you can’t.

Quantified improvement is a great tool for us to utilize in various areas of life. Even in music, quantifying your improvement in areas such as speed or rhythm is great. But it must be used in support of a greater goal; it cannot be the goal itself.

This is true in life as well — being bigger, faster, stronger, richer, more attractive — these are all nice things and great tools for enhancing our lives. But if they are, themselves, your life goals, then you will eventually become miserable

3. You only stick to a habit you enjoy.
I respect the hell out of jazz, but I never fell in love with it the way I did with rock/metal.

The biggest epiphany of music school for me — other than realizing girls actually paid attention to me when I cut my hair short — was that willpower is no match for emotional investment.

Many people try to adopt a new diet or start going to the gym or learn a new skill or study a language, only to quickly fail. Unless you are being emotionally rewarded for something, you are eventually not going to continue to do it, no matter how much willpower you have. You have to find a way to make exercise fun. You have to find a way to reward yourself for successful dieting. You have to feel the benefits of the meditation practice. This is why doing these things in groups is so useful, the rewarding social aspect creates strong incentive to continue.

For me, the emotional rewards of playing guitar were far more social than I realized at the time. When I got to music school, I had to study music that I wasn’t good at and didn’t really love (jazz and classical). And instead of being the rock guitar guy, I was now one of like 20 rock guitar guys, a significant portion of whom were better than me (they could play faster, and they knew more scales!).

It sucked. And I lasted about six months before I decided to quit and transfer.

4. No matter how great you are, you still have to depend on other people
An unfortunate truth for many of us with delusions of grandeur. In my years playing, I never did find a band that either (a) all of the musicians were good or; (b) all of the musicians wanted to play the same kind of music. It was frustrating. Playing with yourself all day, every day, eventually gets, err… VERY boring... Yeah.

The irony of my musical experience came to a head when I discovered in music school that I was terrified of playing with a lot of the other people there (i.e., people as good or better than me). Playing guitar had been a strategy that allowed me to get my validation needs met while circumventing my social anxiety in the process. But in music school, confronting my social anxiety became necessary to continue excelling at guitar.

As you would expect, the guitar went out the window.

5. Ultimately, your emotional connections determine your success
Just as any quantifiable advantage in life is useless unless applied to qualitative well-being, so in music, any quantitative ability on an instrument is useless unless applied to developing an emotional connection with the music and with your audience.

It’s interesting, for some reason guitarists fall into the “bigger dick” syndrome of playing music more than any other instrumentalist. I don’t know why.

Recall the atrocious Guitar Idol video above. It’s funny, because most guitarists like that are trying to be like the guitarist below, John Petrucci. For the past ten years, Petrucci has been seen as one of the gold standards of virtuosic guitar playing.

Now, even if you’re not really into the style of music, anyone will admit that this is an actual song. What he’s playing is difficult, but it has a melodic hook, interesting harmony, a build up, a breakdown, a solo. The drums and bass complement the guitar and vice-versa and none of them are playing over the top of one another. Ultimately, the song is making some sort of emotional statement that many people are able to relate to. And that’s why Petrucci sells out arenas around the world, and nerds like Guitar Idol guys and me don’t and never will. Simple as that.

Why? Because we watched guys like him and imitated his surface movements — the scales, the speed, the string-skipping, the harmonic ideas — spending hours developing the necessary skills to play like him and totally missing what actually makes him good: his heart. Yeah, totally cliché ...but come on, it’s true — something guitarists like me had all along but never used.

About the Author... Mark Manson is a relationship /business counselor who has worked with thousands of people from more than 30 different countries. He's addressed audiences from Sydney to New York to Vienna and everywhere in between. Mark's unique communication skills have talked people down from suicides, inspired marriages, and helped people build their first businesses. You can find Mark's work on websites like; the Huffington Post, CNN Travel, Forbes, and the Good Men Project, among others.

5 Things that will Destroy Your Music Career...

Courtesy of Hugh McIntyre

There are plenty of articles with suggestions about how to be more productive, more successful, and with tips on how to become the person you want to be... but what about the things you need to stop doing? 

Musicians, recording artists, song-writers and top touring performers who have "made it" will tend to have similar qualities about themselves that are all shared in common. This is including many things that they have dropped from their lives altogether and they've just learned to simply live without.

The lesson here is that if we are "not doing" something specific, it can be just as important as picking-up on a certain action... Here are five things that you should abandon in life along your long drive to becoming the most successful musician you can possibly be...

1. Procrastinating
We all do it, so don’t beat yourself up. But, you should get better about actually getting off your butt and focusing on your career goals. This means severely limiting any personal time spent on social media outlets like Facebook, and Instagram, turn off that TV (the idiot-box), and start doing more of whatever needs to be done to get you closer to your musical goals.

Procrastinating can hurt you so much more than you realize, as it zaps all of your valuable time away, and little by little, causes you to lose out on both opportunities and the production of your musical products and services.

And, it happens well before you will ever even notice it. So, the first step to stopping these "time wasting" behaviors is to catch yourself procrastinating, (nip it in the bud). If you can see the "waste of time" coming a mile away, stop it prior to it consuming your valuable hours. By constantly asking yourself if you "really need to do _______," you'll start finding a lot more free time to plug into your music career.

Whenever you open a website, pick up your cell-phone, or change the TV channel, think for just a millisecond about what you're doing. Is this really the best use of your time, and have you really earned it? Don’t start justifying all of your actions either. Be honest with yourself.Over time, you'll find far more valuable things to occupy your days and evenings. Things that have more to do with your future success and advancing your goals.

2. Constantly getting wasted or high
This is a problem for a lot of musicians. And, every serious player really needs to start thinking about the time that these actions require from your day, and think if you’re serious about being a full-time musician, will this benefit you in any way.

There’s nothing wrong with hanging out and blowing off some steam from time to time, but take a look at how often you get drunk or high, and then think about what you do when you’re incapacitated.The loss of "clear thinking" time is gone during those periods and will never be regained.

If you drink too much, there's not just the period of drinking either, there's the being hungover part as well, and that can ruin a day that would otherwise have been spent working. And, this does not stop at alcohol...

Smoking a lot of weed and being stoned every day isn’t the best state of mind in which to book a show, study music, or think about upcoming music business decisions, is it? Sometimes, creating music while under the influence can work-out okay for "some" people, (not for everyone - and not all the time). In other words, you shouldn’t come rely on it.

Don’t make it a habit of being drunk or stoned too often. And, take a close examination of the work that you do when you're drinking alcohol or smoking dope. Is it really as good as when you're straight?  If you take stock of this you should be fine.If ignored, it could possibly lead to total disaster for your musical future.

3. Trying to make everything perfect
Many artists get caught up in perfectionism, and because of that, their work is never really done. That might be artistically interesting, but it doesn’t help your productivity. Believe it or not, your fans aren’t really that into the fact that you’ve spent years making sure every tiny detail of your new album is flawless, and many of them may end up forgetting about you.

Now, I’m not saying you should churn out bad, sloppy work. There’s no excuse for doing your job poorly, especially if it’s something you love. It’s really about being able to recognize when you’re going overboard, and when the music you’ve created really is very good (and good enough). Don’t let "perfect" be the enemy of good.

4. Sounding like someone who is famous
Those who want to truly make it big might think that the best way to get there is by not quite copying, but sounding "just like" their favorite superstars. If there is such a demand for Bruce Springsteen, U2, and Katy Perry, there is surely room for someone else just like them at the top, right?

Wrong. Not only will this strategy ABSOLUTELY not make you hit number one, it’s not likely to take you anywhere - period. Being inspired by someone who has become wildly successful is great, and you should absolutely learn from the artists who've come before you, but they’ve already done it, so you need to go your own route.

5. Making comparisons
On the other side of the coin from the previous tip, this can be just as damaging to a budding career. Some people look up and see the stars at the top and think, “I’ll never get there,” and with that thought, you’re certainly not going to.

Don’t start comparing your music to those with million-dollar producers, don’t feel bad that your video doesn't look like something that could win an MTV VMA, and DON’T start believing that living life as a musician is impossible.

Sure, the odds are that you’ll never have a number one hit, and becoming an international superstar is...not likely, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t continue to do your thing. Everybody starts somewhere, and even if you don’t get to the top of the charts, you can still do what you love.

Millions of people make a great living and enjoy highly successful music careers out of being full-time musicians. One of the first steps is giving up your feelings of crushing doubt. If you have studied, organized a career path, stayed realistic, remained clear-headed and have "get-up-and-go," to work hard everyday - generally - you'll be able to carve out a music career for yourself. This business isn't perfect, but there are rewards for those who can hold their own.

Hugh McIntyre is a freelance pop music journalist in NYC by way of Boston. He has written for Billboard, The Hollywood Reporter, and MTV, as well as various magazines and blogs around the world. He is also the founder and editor-in-chief of the blog Pop! Bang! Boom! which is dedicated to the genre of pop in all of its glory.

Figure it Out Fridays: Lesson 005 - Part One

Figure it Out Fridays: Lesson 005 - Part One

Welcome to, "Figure it Out Fridays - Lesson 005," the unique Ear Training Guitar Lesson on YouTube. 

The focus of these lessons will be to study how to transcribe, (learn by ear), a new guitar melody or a chord progression every week... 

Musical ideas are released on Tuesday's, with the Music and TAB's released that same week on Friday. Do your best on the days in between to learn the musical parts. Then, be sure to check out the "Part Two" video to learn exactly how the musical idea operates. Enjoy, and good luck transcribing!

Figure it Out Fridays: Lesson 005 - Part One

4 Strategies to Improve Your Practice Sessions...

Courtesy of Liam Duncan

When I first started to take practicing seriously, I was intimidated by my peers who claimed to practice nine hours a day, or wake up at 5:00 a.m. and practice until noon... 

When I sat down with the intention to practice for six-plus hours, I would be distracted within two hours and start out the session dreading the whole affair. The fact is, I’m simply not cut out for eight-hour practice sessions. I sit at the piano for hours and barely get anything done.

Since then, I’ve changed my practice routine to be focused on quality over quantity, and let me tell you, my life is changed! Here are some techniques I use to make the most of my practice time.

1. Use a practice journal
When I was in university, I went to the same gym as my piano prof. We saw each other there almost every day, and he noted that I used a little book to keep track of my progress. He pointed out that I should be doing the same thing for my practice! Since then my journal has become a constant companion in my practice. You should use one too! Here’s why:

Goal setting: With a journal, it’s easy to set goals and track your progress from day to day. You can also look back over entire months and easily see your progress.

Organization: No more wondering what you’re going to practice today! With a journal, you set rough time limits on each part of your practice according to your goals. Then you record your progress, accomplishments, and setbacks.

Reflection: At the end of every week and month, I reflect on what I’ve accomplished and plan for the time ahead. I use a modified version of bullet journaling to set a schedule, give myself specific goals/tasks, and reflect on my practice.

2. Try the Pomodoro technique
If you’re like me, sitting down and just "practicing" for four to eight hours is basically a waste of time. If I give myself one to three hours to practice, carefully plan out my practice, and give myself breaks, I get way more accomplished.

You’ve probably heard of the Pomodoro technique: essentially, you work on something for 25 minutes uninterrupted and then give yourself a short break. Every four "work periods," give yourself a longer break.

This makes for great practice. When you’re tackling a big project, it’s often hard to just bring yourself to get started! With this technique, you make an oath to yourself that you'll work on something for just 25 minutes, and when you’re done, you can cross it off your practice schedule and take a quick break. I use the breaks to write in my journal, get up and stretch, make coffee, etc.

3. Set practical deadlines
Even if you do all of the above, sometimes the hardest thing about practicing is figuring out what to actually work on. In university, it was easy – I had gigs, constant rehearsals, lessons, etc. Lots of fodder for practice.

I’m still a deadline-oriented person, so I need new projects to motivate my practice. Sometimes that means booking myself a gig. Other times, I have to make my own deadlines. Make a commitment to record and release a new cover video or original song once a week or once a month. You don’t need to stress yourself out, you just need to have something to work towards. That way you can break down your to-do list.

4. Rehearse efficiently with a band
The last thing I want to touch on is rehearsing efficiently. These are my three tips.

Record your rehearsals
I don’t know why I haven’t always done this, but seriously, how are you supposed to know what you even sound like? My band is lucky enough to rehearse in a home studio, so we get to multitrack all of our rehearsals. But if all you have is an iPhone, that works! You'll learn so much from recording your rehearsals. From groove to time to harmonies, all is revealed in a recording!

Make an agenda
It’s not very rock 'n' roll, but as a band, you always have things to work on. Then you get to rehearsal and immediately forget them. Instead, write things down, make a schedule, and stick to it.

Take your rehearsal back to your personal practice
If everyone has a recording and an agenda, it’s easy to make notes on what should be worked on and take those notes back to your personal practice. Trust me, it’s a good feeling coming to every rehearsal and sounding better than the last time. The best part? Listening to old rehearsals and seeing how far you’ve come!

At the end of the day, I do all of this to make music more fun. Music doesn’t need to be stressful, and I believe that a little planning can go a long way towards having a joyful music-making experience!

Liam Duncan is a full-time musician from Winnipeg, Canada. He likes to record music with friends and tour with The Middle Coast.

PRINCE - Guitar Style

GuitarBlog: PRINCE - Guitar Style...

This week on the GuitarBlog I discuss the rhythm and lead guitar style of Prince. 

Prince was a really solid musician, he was a great songwriter, a great music businessman, and most importantly, he was someone who really believed in the rights of the musician taking priority in the music business. 

When Purple Rain hit the airwaves back in 1984 he cemented himself as a world-class recording artist and performer. But, he always maintained throughout his career that the musician was the ultimate creator and the very center of the music business. He felt that the musician needed much more say in the business, which is why he had so many problems over the years with the major record labels. 

In the end, his music reached us all, and he'll always be remembered as not only, as guitarist, singer and style icon, but as one of the most creative and unique musicians and bandleaders that we've seen in decades. I hope you enjoy the video lesson!

PRINCE - Guitar Style

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Figure it Out Fridays: Lesson 004 - Part Two

Figure it Out Friday's: Lesson 004 - Part Two

Welcome to, "Figure it Out Fridays: Lesson 004 - Part Two," Ear Training Guitar Lesson. 

Here's the Answer Key for, "Figure it Out Fridays," Ear Training Lesson 004.

In this series, we study how to transcribe a new guitar melody or chord progression every week. Musical ideas are released on Tuesday, with the Music and TAB's released that same week on Fridays. Do your best on the days "in between" to learn the different guitar parts. 

Up-Load your guess of Tuesdays guitar idea (from the part one lesson) to your YouTube channel. Share your examples on; GooglePlus, Twitter and on FaceBook. 

Be sure to check-out the "Part Two" video released every Friday to learn exactly how Tuesdays guitar part looks charted to TAB and in Music Notation. Enjoy the series!

Figure it Out Fridays: Lesson 004 - Part Two

5 Strange Tones for Your Guitar...

Courtesy of Jesse Sterling Harrison

Guitar sounds that make you stand up and ask, "What the heck is that?"

Whether you’re a guitarist, a trumpeter, or just a passionate listener, you’ve probably noticed some iconic, instantly recognizable sounds that crop up over and over. There’s the furious rip of a Les Paul through a Marshall stack. An American Strat singing through a Fender tube combo. Or the old-school sound of a Silvertone plugged into a Roland Jazz Chorus. Some tones are a match made in heaven. But some songs call for sounds less heavenly – sounds that make you stand up and ask, "What the heck is that?"

Here are five times our world was visited by unearthly guitar tones and why they were perfect.

1. "Scream in Blue," Midnight Oil

What made this one so amazing? It was so unexpected. Midnight Oil (famous in the US for "Beds Are Burning") made their bones as a chugging, brawling bar band. They were all about a crossfire of strumming acoustics or a well-placed, windmilled power chord. But these guys had progressive, experimental aspirations too, and with this crazy track, they shouted those aspirations out loud. How many stomp-boxes did Jim Moginie have to line up to find this tone?

2. "Slowly Growing Deaf," Mr. Bungle

These guys were a weird, weird band. They kept listeners guessing constantly, swinging back and forth from death metal to ska to pinball machine music. Seeing them working their tails off to duplicate their ambitious songs live was legendary. But sometimes they just had to kick ass, as evidenced by Trey Spruance’s chunky power chords that start around 0:58. Never mind the awesome right-hand work. How did he get that tone? It sounds like his guitar has 11 wound strings.

3. "Cherry Colored Funk," Cocteau Twins

Let’s be honest: a funk song this is not. Guitarist Robyn Guthrie of Cocteau Twins is all about ambience and oddball and synthesized guitar sounds, not ripping solos or heavy grooves. Here’s a perfect example: Guthrie’s are-you-sure-that’s-a-guitar forms a pillow for the listener’s head and an inspired backdrop for Liz Fraser’s ethereal vocals.

4. "Touched," My Bloody Valentine

I’m not sure we could have a discussion about crazy guitar tones without a nod to My Bloody Valentine. Shoegaze royalty, this band achieved their unstoppable tones with boundless creativity and dangerously high volume, with performances loud enough to send worms crawling up out of the ground for miles. Not only do the guitars on this track sound completely unlike guitars, they don’t sound like any other Earth instrument either.

5. "Another Song for a Blue Guitar," Red House Painters

Mark Kozelek is a terribly underrated guitarist, probably because he doesn’t play lead. But it’s hard to find a more tasteful, inventive rhythm player, especially when it comes to the acoustic. On this track, it sounds as though Kozelek just found a guitar washed up on the beach, slapped a few strings on it and wrote a song on the spot.

Jesse Sterling Harrison is an author, recording artist, and part-time farmer. He lives in Massachusetts with his wife, three daughters, and a herd of ducks.

4 Concepts to Help Improve Your Creativity...

Courtesy of Jesse Sterling Harrison

Reach your creative peak, and understand yourself better as a maker of art...

If you’re a songwriter, (or if you reside anywhere else in the creative world), you’ve probably noticed some type of creative cycle in yourself. That cycle most likely has an emotional component.

Perhaps you find yourself in a neutral mood before starting a project. That neutrality could turn to excitement, sleepless nights, and mania when you’re near the finish line of your new work. Finally, when the project is complete, you might feel empty and depressed and lie around the house like Sherlock Holmes without a case, (hopefully avoiding his favorite boredom remedy: narcotics).

Researcher and engineer Paul Plsek (pronounced "plee-sek," word nerds) has dug into the last century of literature on creative thinking and written a fascinating analysis of how creative minds work.

He has boiled this cycle down to four phases: preparation, imagination, development, and action. This work might just help you reach your creative peak, and even understand yourself a bit better as a maker of art.

1. Preparation
If the cycle is viewed like the face of a clock, preparation is a 9. This quarter of the cycle takes place before the actual process begins. It's simply a process of intentional living and thinking about the world around us.

We live our lives steeped in the culture and environment around us. As thinking, feeling human beings, we draw conclusions about how things work. We develop objections to things that don’t seem right. We get excited about the good things. And we begin to assemble theories about why things go well or badly in the world. Music, like other creative pursuits, gives us a vehicle to comment on the world and to build at least a small part of it to our own specifications.

2. Imagination
Now we’re at 12 o’clock. We've analyzed our world, and we’re ready to comment about it. This is the moment that a lyricist’s pen hits the page, the moment the trumpeter blows his first note. This is the first moment that your internal process hits the air.

Of course, these ideas may be vaguely formed at first. Some of them may not pass the test of our self-editing process to come. But it’s too early to think about that. Right now, it’s time to generate lots of ideas in a form that can be recorded or stored in some way for later evaluation. This is the time to write pages and pages, to play riffs and riffs, to sing any melody that comes into your head. Then "harvest" your ideas and attempt to bring them into some coherent form.

Artists of all kinds often remark on how quick this part of the process can be. That’s because it’s just the tip of the iceberg – the final phase of hours, days, or weeks of vague thoughts and ideas that have finally coalesced into this moment.

3. Development
For the writer, development means editing. It’s the same for songwriters. Is there one chorus too many? Is that transition too abrupt? Would this melody be more memorable if we added another chord here? This is the phase in which you work your ideas into something with structure and form.

Finally, you’ll step back and take it in with new eyes and ears. That could mean playing your recording through from start to finish, listening to a group perform your written piece, or playing it through yourself. Does it work? The biggest question of the hour is simple: Have I said what I wanted to say? Most likely the answer is yes. After all, you’ve been working on it for a while. But a few tweaks might still be needed. This can also be a sad time when a developed idea that didn’t quite make it finally dies.

4. Action
How does action differ from development? After all, you’ve been doing a lot of actions, playing instruments, recording parts, writing lyrics and scratching them out, only to replace them. Well, according to Plsek's model, creative ideas only become valuable when put into practice. That means sharing them. Now it’s time to release that recording, perform that song, share that video. You’re at the finish line – you should be confident now. If you’re a creative person, you are your own worst critic, and you’ve passed all of your own tests if you’re willing to let others see what you’ve made.

So that’s the process. How does it help? Well, we can proceed through this process in an intentional manner. When we’re not writing, we should make it a point to observe. We should boost our experience of the world by getting out, trying new things, and consuming lots of other art to inform our own muse. When we’re imagining, we should remember to let ideas spill out on the page without judging them. When editing our own work, we can keep the emotional goals in mind. (How do I want someone to feel when listening to this song? Do I feel it now?) And last of all, when we share our work, we should aggressively promote it. If it’s worth sharing with one person, it’s worth sharing with the world.

Jesse Sterling Harrison is an author, recording artist, and part-time farmer. He lives in Massachusetts with his wife, three daughters, and a herd of ducks.

Figure it Out Fridays: Lesson 004 - Part One

Figure it Out Fridays: Lesson 004 - Part One

Welcome to, "Figure it Out Fridays - Lesson 004," the unique Ear Training Guitar Lesson on YouTube. 

The focus of these lessons will be to study how to transcribe, (learn by ear), a new guitar melody or a chord progression every week... 

Musical ideas are released on Tuesday's, with the Music and TAB's released that same week on Friday. Do your best on the days in between to learn the musical parts. Then, be sure to check out the "Part Two" video to learn exactly how the musical idea operates. Enjoy, and good luck transcribing!

Figure it Out Fridays: Lesson 004 - Part One

9 Signs You're Doing Better Than You Think at Playing Guitar...

Courtesy of Max Monahan

Are you concerned that your guitar playing isn't exactly taking off just like you'd hoped? No two success stories are the same, and it can be discouraging – and altogether unnecessary – to hold yourself to an unrealistic standard... 

Take a look at this list and see if you might actually be doing better than you think you are. Even if only a couple of these situations apply to you, keep working at it, because you're well on your way!

1. You can notice yourself progressing on your instrument
The number-one sign that you're doing better than you may think you are in your guitar playing is when you can see and fell yourself progressing. Most successful guitar players state that they learn something new just about every day they sit down with their instrument.

If you find yourself at a standstill, your routine may need some tweaking, or maybe it's your whole attitude that needs tweaking! On the other hand, if you find yourself addressing and mastering new challenges, even if it's just now and then, it means you're headed in the right direction and that you won't be at any shortage for new creative ideas.

2. You have earned money playing guitar
While money has nothing to do with artistry, we're all living in a real world with real bills to pay. If you're making solid money, (either directly from playing your music, or by playing in a band), it means you're doing something right!

Making money from playing guitar validates the time you spend on it and adds an extra degree of drive to the equation on top of the personal fulfillment, (which should be your foundation). If your musical pursuits are too experimental to pay you as a direct result of your work, you may want to look into other areas of income. These might include composing scores, jingles, or giving lessons, working as a producer, recording music in a studio, writing a guitar blog, running a YouTube channel, or even working on musical instrument repairs. Gigs like this can function as dual sources of income and inspiration.

3. Many of your friends are musicians or people in the music industry
It's a pretty good feeling when the thing that you truly love starts to spread to all aspects of your life. If music takes up a significant portion of your time, it's likely that many of your friends are musicians (or work in the music industry in some capacity) as well.

It's a great luxury to have people in your life to bounce ideas off of and share inspiration with. Regardless of what level you're at in your music career, it's a beautiful thing to have friends who mirror your musical interests.

4. You get called for playing gigs
This one's as black and white as it can get. If your phone is ringing off the hook with gigs – whether it's performing, producing, co-writing, or anything else you're working to become great at – you're doing something right. A player who has a great personality, is very reliable (emphasis on reliable), and who can function well as a musician is always in demand.

5. You've moved past simply mimicking your idols and have developed your own style
This is one of the biggest milestones you can reach in your music career. As guitar players, it's safe to say the vast majority of us spend a lot of time rehashing the sounds we love, and there's nothing wrong with being in that stage if you haven't found your own voice yet.

Take your time, and don't feel obligated to rush into things based off of anyone's time frame but your own. There's nothing quite like the moment where you find yourself coming into your own artistic voice. You'll get there if you haven't already!

6. You have professional, reliable guitar gear
Few things are worse on a gig than playing with that one person who always has a busted cable, or the input jack makes a ton of noise, or he always needs to run out to get a new battery, or whatever else is wrong that day! This is just not professional.

If you plan on being a professional musician, you need to be serious about everything - especially your gear. Professional does not mean super expensive gear, just really well operating equipment that does exactly what its supposed to do.

Getting quality gear that works consistently is the first step you need to take in making sure that you're successful in the long run.If you're trying to play with other serious players and your gear is total junk, (or you cannot make it work in the setting that you're performing in), they probably won't call you back.

7. People associate you with being a "guitar player"
Whatever you spend your time doing is what you'll be known for, and if we're talking about something as public as playing music / playing guitar, you'll want your reputation to  precede you. You want people to know your work and respect you for it.

Beware of the day when people are dodging the subject of your music career; you want your friends and acquaintances to be eager to speak to you about your successes. If you're an introvert, it can feel a bit strange to take pride in deeply personal work that may reflect a very private side of yourself, and if this is the case, it may be a good idea to practice how you'll handle these situations. Be prepared, and hope to be known for the work you do.

8. People say they enjoy working on music with you
Your longevity in your line of work (playing guitar) relies largely on whether the people who you work with like you or not. Even if you're talented, if you're impossible to work with, your career has a very slim chance of lasting.

If you're not already, learn to be a team player. This doesn't come naturally to everyone, so don't be too hard on yourself if your social skills aren't flawless; just try to follow a nice basic code of Western ethics. There's an old saying that everything you really need to know in life you learned in kindergarten, and this point is exactly what those folks were talking about. Oh yeah, and start by showing up on time.

9. You wake up excited to play guitar
Ah yes, personal fulfillment, how could we forget? This is why most people get into music in the first place (unless this is all just a huge extension of the piano lessons you were forced into at age seven). There's truly nothing like waking up in the morning excited to work on something you're passionate about, and going home at the end of the day and being proud of what you accomplished.

Your satisfaction with your choice to pursue music as a career should be the summation of all the other factors of your success. Try your best, work hard, and you'll go home at the end of the day feeling joyful and fulfilled.

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.

LEAD GUITAR: Soloing on One String

GuitarBlog: LEAD GUITAR: Soloing on One String...

This week on the GuitarBlog I discuss performing solos on only one string. 

Guitar players can get too involved with playing scales vertically and neglect spending time thinking about scales in a more horizontal manner. In this lesson, I will take a look at how to approach playing guitar solos along just one string. Learning to take advantage of the unique sound of playing a scale along one guitar string can open up some pretty cool ideas for your lead playing. 

Breaking away from the all too common "in-position" patterns will end up offering a number of unique sounds into your playing. The guitar offers us the ability to play vertically and horizontally, but very few students of the instrument spend much time learning to play solos in a linear way. 

Too many guitarists get hooked on playing only in the box shapes. When a more linear approach is introduced, a shift in the way scales and solos end up sounding will occur. Enjoy the lesson.

LEAD GUITAR: Soloing on One String

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