Thursday, 1 January 2015

Post Twenty One - Developing plectrum picking.

Developing plectrum picking.

This will be hard at first but very beneficial for your playing. Experiment with the alternate up and down strokes sometimes doing two downs to end on an up stoke to bring you back to the low string works well. With practise it will not matter what way you do it. Repeat the phases. Use any chords, muted open chords are a little easier.








Wednesday, 31 December 2014

Post Twenty - Guitars, Amps and Accessories

Guitars, Amps and Accessories

I have a number of guitars some for recording and some for live performance. I play mainly electric guitar and rock music was my main impetus for starting to play.

I first learnt on a classical guitar and have had flamenco guitar lessons. The reason I don't play classical or flamenco guitar is that it takes a lot of practice to keep control of the instrument. Playing plectrum style is a lot less labour intensive and with a large family this was advantageous. I do play nylon string with a plectrum and use this to sing and play acoustically. I prefer this format over steel string guitar because of the tone of the instrument and the feel of the strings. I have a stereo Ovation classical guitar for performance.

I prefer young instruments to old ones because old guitars are collectables and I don't really want to worry about them live or get attached to them at home. Young instruments are easy to replace and they feel and play as good as most old instruments.

For electric guitars I like playing the Les Paul Junior with a dog eared P90 in the bridge. The dog eared P90 is screwed to the body and is very durable compared with the adjustable height model in the Special. The construction of the height adjustment takes the firmness out of the end result because dog eared p90 are screwed to the body. The electronics of the Les Paul Junior are very basic not having a pick up selector and are very durable as well. The Junior has a really good weigh and balance and isn't associated with a showy rock star image that the Les Paul has, it's image is more of the working class and punk aesthetic. The reason for this is the Junior is a student model guitar rather than a professional model and is very unassuming. I enjoy this association. One downside is that the tuners are not as good as professional models and take more work to get in tune.

I also have a Gibson SG and this is a professional guitar with all the trimmings. Trimmings being - bound fretboard, pearl inlay, pick-up selector and custom pick-ups. 

I also have a Fender Stratocaster and I use this when I need the whammy bar. Fenders are very robust instruments and if needed can handle some rough handling. This is because Fenders have a bolt on necks, a Gibson which has a set neck needs a lot of care when out of the case.

The string gauge I use is 11-49, standard string gauge is 10-46 so I play a little heavier and this allows me to hit my guitar quite hard and I can be confident that I won't break a string. A lot of professional players use heavier strings than this but I am very happy with this gauge. It gives me just the right amount of resistance on my bends as well.

I like using amplifiers that have a dual channels and reverb. This means I can play the amp without any effects. Even if the amp hasn't two channels or any reverb I still want my amp to sound great going straight in. Sometimes I will gang two amps up to get a good sound. For the studio I have a Fender red knob twin and JCM900 with a 1960 quad box. For live I have a JCM800 combo with two 12" speakers (now sold). All of these amps have two channel switching and reverb. The combo caters for most applications but the quad box is better for larger venues.

My favourite effect is the Dunlop Wha Wha. I have an Yamaha octaver and a couple of Boss distortion pedals and EH pick-up booster. I have a splitter as well and usually have two lines out sometimes with different effects on each leg. I also have a GU8 Roland guitar processor but I mainly use this device as an active split to two amps. The amps sound better through this device even without any effects turned on.

I don't use alternative tuning but I do like using a capo on acoustic guitar and would like to start using the capo on electric guitar like Albert Collins.

Friday, 25 April 2014

Post Nineteen - Influences

In the process of finding a new sound I find it a good idea to find an instrumentalist that you can emulate. If you pick a guitarist as you try to emulate the player you will come up with something different from the original and your sound will be advantaged. I have many influences and they come out in my playing in different ways.

Wayne Kramer and Fred 'Sonic' Smith from MC5 have been very influential. The Stooges were also a big part of that Detroit sound. Blues players were a big part of my early development. Freddie King seems to stand out as did Johnny Winter.

Rock players include Jimmy Hendrix, Eric Clapton. Players like Jimmy Page I couldn't really idolise, even though I like Led Zeppelin, because Page's playing was often lose and carefree on record while other players were solid and note perfect. I even found Hendrix a little hard to bear live for the same reason. Blackmore is an example of being rock solid live and on record. 

Band influences include Thin Lizzy, Cold Chisel, Dr Feelgood, Ramones and The Kinks all of whom I have seen live. I still use Cold Chisel's "Your thirteen, your beautiful and you're mine" for warm up exercises. The breaks in Wild Thing and Merry-go-round in particular are worth a listen. The Beatles were a big influence, Jo Cocker and other soul, blues, rock combinations.

I really like Black Sabbath but haven't developed my Metal playing. My influences in rock go until Van Halen 1 and that is as metal as I go in my playing. That album was quite influential and a great example of rock playing.

One of my favourite instrumentalists is the jazz organist Jimmy Smith. I feel that emulating someone who isn't a guitar player has a greater potential for coming up with something unique and exciting. I am still in the process of analysing Jimmy Smith's playing but this is where my direction is heading.

I have been interested in Power Pop for some time. Examples being early Elvis Costello, Sunnyboys, The Knack, The Sports. Any rock band that has songs you can sing along to. Clean guitars are very alluring and bands like The Jam and Jo Jackson are great examples. I would like to describe myself as a dance band if I can achieve that goal.

Friday, 20 December 2013

Post Eighteen PART 3 - My Sound

My Sound
After the previous posts I can discuss how I get my sound and explain it in a way that others can easily follow adapt and modify to come up with their own. In saying this my aim is to extend my sound so that I can make it more of my own.

There is a couple of elements that describe where I am at the moment. Firstly; I like to reduce my possibilities to create a decisive tonal place to work from. If your work is going to be identifiable it needs to have a signature. By diversifying too much the colour can be watered down until it is vague and tasteless. I like working from the Dorian mode as a starting point on most occasions. 

To qualify this, the modes I like using (without saying I like all of them) and trying to put them in an order of most visited, are the Dorian, Mixolydian, Phrygian, Ionian. That gives me two minor and two major modes to work from.

If the first point was to limit my sonic palette. the second point is to have the minor and major ambiguous. This incorporates two scales working simultaneously and a good example is Chuck Berry but the technique is widely used. A Minor Pentatonic with a Mixolydian scale underneath.

The third ingredient is to identify chords that use the limited notes in the sound. To put it another way - to play notes in the scale together to make interesting combinations. This was developed while playing flamenco guitar and the technique is best described by listening to flamenco music. I am still developing it in rock music. It will be my aim to explain this approach and develop it as I dictate it here for others to understand and assimilate.

Chords around the 10th fret
These chords above are centred around the D Dorian on the six string. Both these pages are labelled from the perspective of the Mixolydian scale, root 5 on the 10th and root 6 on the 3rd fret. I have identified these chords by ear. Going through the chord book and finding chords that sit with the minor Pentatonic scale and Mixolydian. I then charted these chords and collected the best sounding chords. The best sounding chords were populated around the D Dorian mode and this was where I have my tonal center.

The chords being located at this mode could have been a major factor in realising I need to play in the Doian mode when playing a minor key. It is because I have so many more opportunities in this mode. I also like the sound more than the natural minor.

I also found a lot of good sounding chords around the Mixoydian mode and this backed up using the Mixolydian major scale underneath the Dorian. You will find chords all over the fret board but this will give you the idea and the understanding to be able to start collecting your own. 

It is also a good idea to start to utilise two note chords and three note chords. This will enable your solos to build rather than going from six strings to one string. If you are in a three piece band with one guitar you really feel the need to solo using small chords.The next step is to incorporate these chords or groups of notes into your guitar playing.

Thursday, 17 October 2013

Post Seventeen - Exercises

Exercise is good.
Practice these phases as a loop over and over. You should get fast at them in time, but start off slowly. The b means bend the note.

Have fun.

II ------------------------------------- I-------------
II -----------------------------5------ I-------

II -----8-----5-------------------------- I-------------

II --------8------5-----------------5---- I-------

II -----8-----5-----------5-------------- I-------------

II -----8------5--------------5---------- I-------

Monday, 14 October 2013

Post Sixteen - Bends

One very distinctive effect in guitar playing is the bend. Below are some notes to bend in your Pentatonic scale.

There are three notes here: C, D and G to bend. The main notes are the D and G. The D bends to makes the E or the 5th in the scale, the G bends to make the A. Practise by bending the note up until it sounds exactly the same as the note you want, play it first. 

The C is different as it does not want to be bent to C#, semitone or half-step, it just wants to move a quarter-step. This bend will sound good dropping to the A after the bend; you should recognise it and how far to bend the note.

Double bends
These bends are similar to the first, except you play a note while bending another note at the same time. In the first example the E is fretted by the first finger, the D with the 3rd, as you bend the E you hear the D bend up until it meets the same note. This is good practise for the single bend.

The second example is similar, but the third and fourth fingers are used. The last example can be easier bent down or towards you. Try resolving this bend to the A on the 4th string.

Triple bends
The first two examples have two notes held down while you bend the third and they have a nice full sound. The third example is a C chord bent up a quarter step, the same as you did on the C note. This is not difficult, but easier with lighter gauge strings.

Sunday, 13 October 2013

Post Fifteen - What is a solo?

What is a solo?
We talked about singing the scales to really make music, to help do this I would like to give you a melodic pattern to practice with. We will start with the G mixolydian mode. Remember the main chords in the key are G, C, Dm

Now let’s practice the G major arpeggio. Once learned we can add this to our improvisational repertoire. Practise playing the exercise up and down the fretboard as you sing the notes, as this will increase your familiarity and ability to utilise them while improvising.

The arpeggio grown progressively on each diagram. The third shape is the G b7th Arpeggio notice the sound of the b7th added, and finally the G b7th scale or Mixolydian mode.

Now when we go to the C instead of using the major voice I want you to modulate by using the same Mixolydian scale, starting on the 5th string so it looks like this:

You will recognise the shape as your Dorian shape starting on the G. Modulation is an important tool where you use the same sound but change where it starts. Another popular modulation is to raise the whole song up two frets, try it.

One chord that compliments this scale and sound is C9


Sing the arpeggio for the chord. And then sing the full C9th scale or Mixolydian mode. You can do this exercise with other positions and other sounds, and the more that become familiar to you the better.