How to Play a Better Guitar Solo...

Creating a guitar solo that sounds like more than just playing up and down basic scales takes a number of skills. Learn what those skills are and how to develop them...

Guitar soloing skills include concepts such as phrasing, repeating themes, leaving space, building your solos dynamically, and learning to play over simple chord changes. In order to rip out a solo the guitarist needs to understand all of these areas.

Before jumping into these areas it is important that the guitarist learns their scale patterns and how the scales are organized around the neck. Patterns are the templates for where you will locate the tones required to play a solo. The layout of both major and minor scale patterns is a must for soloing success. So, learn your patterns and know how scales connect. This is the first step to playing a decent solo.

The first soloing concept to talk about is phrasing. Good phrasing helps to structure your solo like you’re having a conversation with someone. If I’m talking to someone, I don’t run all my sentences together in a monotonous tone because that wouldn’t make much sense and wouldn’t be very interesting. That would be the same as playing a guitar solo that just runs up and down a scale.

When you’re talking to someone, you leave pauses, have inflections in your voice, and have rest times where you wait for a moment. Sometimes you want your guitar solos to be the same way. Your solo can be more interesting if you pause here and there and build inflections in your playing.

Having a repeating theme in your solo grabs your listeners attention. You won’t always have a repeating theme in your solo, but it’s nice to have build some type of theme in your solo. The theme will help tie everything together, giving it a cohesive feel. Repeating a theme will also help you with your phrasing because it leaves natural pauses in your solo.

Something that’s hard for guitarists to do is to leave space between notes, because we’re used to practicing scales and we naturally want to play through them quickly. Be sure to leave some space in your solos to keep your audience engaged and keep them dialed in to your music.

Try this basic soloing idea; establish a part you'll use as a theme. Play your part as a recurring theme, leaving a space for the part to breathe, and then play the theme again.

Building your solos dynamically is another way to make your solos more interesting and keep your listeners engaged. That could mean you start your solo quietly, slowly build it up, and then by the end, it’s natural to end off with a faster lick or at a higher volume.

This won’t be the case with every solo you play, but keeping dynamics in mind is a great tool to pull out, especially if you’re playing a song that is emotional or you want to end off with a crescendo. Think about it like an action movie, there are still down times during the movie so that the action really stands out.

Playing over chord changes can be somewhat confusing. The first solo you practice should be organized under a diatonic progression. This means all of the chords are from the same key center. For example, if you choose to work on an "F Major" progression, then every chord would come from the key of "F Major" and your entire solo would use the "F Major" scale.

A more complex approach is when chords are non-diatonic, meaning you should be changing the notes you play in your solo to fit with the chords that are happening in your song. For example, lets say the two chords we have in a jam track for your solo are G Major and Bb Major. In this case we’ll adjust our notes according to those chords.

When the G major chord is playing, we’ll use G major and G major pentatonic scales. When the Bb Major is playing, we’ll switch to an Bb Major pentatonic scale to match that chord. That’s going to be a more challenging example to work with, so it’s not exactly perfect for a beginner soloist. A beginner should start with the diatonic progression and develop their skills to be able to handle playing over non-diatonic progressions.

Try to use these basic soloing tips in every solo you play over the next few weeks. They are really helpful for making your solos sound more musical, and move you away from sounding like you’re just practicing scales up and down the neck.


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8 Tips for Quickly Memorizing a Piece of Music

Quickly memorizing songs for a gig is one of the primary "must have" abilities of a successful working guitar player... 

Memorizing songs means work, and a lot of hours work... When a new set-list comes your way, any song on the list (for which you are unfamiliar with), needs to become committed to your memory as fast as humanly possible. Your reputation depends on it.

For most guitar players, this ability of doing "speedy song recall" can be daunting. But, since guitar players need to develop this skill to a very high degree, I've compiled a list of 8 strategies that you can use right away to begin memorizing your songs a lot faster.

1. PLAY IT, SING IT, HEAR IT... One of the most common ways of memorizing music is to play music over and over. Eventually you will retain how to play the music by shear force of repetition.

Some people call it auditory muscular memory. However, it’s not your "ear-muscles" that remember music, but rather it is stored as neural pathways in your brain. Memorizing is as much about neurological recall as it is about auditory retention.

We often remember things better when we learn can connect it to something we are already familiar with. Therefore, once a song is repeated over and over in the mind and by the hands, the brain builds recall centers for that information.This is the first level of deep memory for the music you are studying.

2. VISUALIZATION... Using visualization to test your recall on the fingerboard is a way to program information even deeper. Rather than just testing your memory through playing, you can imagine yourself playing. This helps to bring your playing into a more mindful, focused state.

If you can;t remember exactly what you are supposed to be playing you can stop and review your notes, then prior to physically playing, mentally review yourself playing the part. This is probably the best tool that you can apply to assist with memorizing music quickly.

3. INVOLVE YOUR MIND and CONCENTRATE... Be mindful and concentrate on every section of the song you are studying. Try and practice mindfully, no distractions, (no TV set on, no radio on, nobody in the room with you).

Have an objective for each segment of the piece you are practicing and try and stay present when you are practicing. Stay engaged in the music and focus on what your hands and body is doing at all times. Ask questions about how the song is moving, what changes in the piece and what stays the same.

Be mindful of the songs flow. How many bars are in the Intro., the Verse and in the Bridge. What happens in the Chorus? How do the scales and harmony operate together. What "Other" scales or modes are in the piece?

Becoming very aware of the song brings tiny bits of relevant info to the surface that can be crucial to helping you commit the song as well as, recall parts of the song when needed.

4. STUDY IN SMALL CHUNKS... Break your study piece down into isolated sections; Intro., Verse, Bridge, Chorus, etc... You should be doing this to some degree when practicing anyway, but you can take the idea further by cutting the piece in to 2, 4, 6 or 8 bar sections.

You can decide how you want to learn the phrases consecutively, or you can put them in a random order. The main concept is to understand the details of each part and know how the parts interact with each other. The segments obviously flow, but what makes them flow smoothly? Take notice of the details of each segment, and when you put them all back together, you'll be able to rely on the unique variables of each of those differences.

5. MUSIC THEORY and ANALYSIS... Analyze the musical and rhythmic theory of the song and focus on the small details of the rhythm, harmony and melody. This will help your mind form more theory based connections relating to the piece. Can you take notice of questions regarding:

- tempo
- musical context and history
- articulation
- dynamics
- keys and modulations
- voicing and harmony

6. NOTATE THE SONG... Writing out the music in some manner will help immensely with the songs recall and it will provide a future reference as well.

You could do something as simple as take pencil to sheet-music paper and create a basic lead sheet. You could use a TAB program like "Guitar Pro" and notate a few of the more vital riffs. Or, you could use the default chart setting in "Finale" to create a one-page chart for the songs rhythm changes.

Any one of the above approaches will work, so long as you get the song notated in some manner. It isn't the end result (the finished chart) that makes the biggest difference. Rather, it's the time that you had spent creating the chart and organizing the songs 'flow' into a music chart that helps with your overall long-term memorization.

7. TRANSCRIPTION... Transcribing a song into a different key makes every musician think about the songs structure in a more analytical way and that brings the musician to understand the piece on a much deeper level.

If the song you're learning is in "D Major" move the piece to "Bb Major." If the song is in "F Minor," then take it to "A Minor." Relocate chords on the neck and play the piece in multiple areas along the fingerboard. After doing this work, you'll never look at that song the same again.

8. PLAY THE SONG ON ANOTHER INSTRUMENT... Try and play the music you are learning on a different instrument. If you only play guitar, you're stuck on this one. However, if you understand piano, bass or drums, be sure to spend some time at making a thorough study on your other instrument.

There will be a richer concept of the piece that you're working on by learning the song parts on piano, or bass. And, the groove will be more detailed to you if you sit down at your kit and play through the songs sections.

This type of "cross-platform" work does amazing things for your perception of the song and it helps you to understand the music in a completely different light.


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What to Look for in a GREAT Guitar Teacher

Guitar teachers can be of all types of personalities and back-grounds. But, what "type" makes a really great guitar teacher? 

Is it the guitar teachers attitude, or their skills? Is it their knowledge, or their ability to explain complex musical topics with ease? What makes a great teacher?

There are in fact certain traits that highly successful guitar teachers (those sought-after highly competent teachers) seem to all have in common. Let's run through the traits which sit right up there at the top of the list.

Have you ever tried to have a conversion with someone who was a poor listener? It is not easy. They talk over you, they half-listen to only a part of your sentences. It isn't much fun. If you have a guitar teacher who doesn't listen to you, how well do you think you'll learn from that person?

It can be even worse if the teacher just wants to talk about themselves and how spectacular their gig was over the weekend and how they met "so and so" at the bar after the gig. This can be a big issue for the student because it's a huge waste of the students time - time that is of value - time that they are paying for. Time that should be spent discussing the students concerns. But, instead is being wasted on drivel regarding a guitar teacher influence peddling their supposed greatness and posturing their need to impress.

Students are fantastic at talking, every good teacher knows this. However, the student must be given the right setting and opportunity to share where they are at. And, establishing this "setting" (for the student to open up) is actually one of the primary jobs of the teacher. A private lesson shouldn't be a lecture. It should be an open forum based upon discussing the students needs with a good rapport for communication. That way there's a far better chance of the students' needs being met

A great teacher realizes that everything in a students life affects their guitar playing because it affects their practice time. Students need several hours each week to study, and every part of their life will revolve around the success of gaining this time to work on guitar.

So, this means that the teacher needs to let the student talk, and relate where "they are at" to the teacher. This will help the teacher form a proper scope of where the play is at, and armed with this knowledge, the teacher can gain better a balance toward the next coming week of study.

What the teacher learns about the students life overall each week will allow the teacher to better form a more helpful plan to get the student learning more material into the coming week. Without excellent listening skills, the teacher cannot form the students future direction (for practice) to the maximum degree.

No two guitar students are the same. Therefore, no two students should have the identical guitar lesson /weekly class. Each students "method" needs to evolve from where they are at as a player. Not from some generic course book that the teacher sells to earn an extra $20.00 per head. Course books can be great, but courses need to be balanced with a custom method that centers around the students interests.

Great teachers offer a plan full of suggestions and opportunities to cater specifically at what each unique student will require.

One student may want to learn more about how the fingerboard works. Another student may have a strong interest in classical guitar. Another student may want to learn an entire set of folk songs to perform at the local coffee shop. And, each of these students are going to require an entirely different learning process.

A student who loves Hard-Rock and Heavy Metal will die a slow death if they are force fed the Alfred Basic Method Guitar Book One. Instead that player needs a diet of songs from their favorite artists and bands. They need to learn techniques of that style along with scales and arpeggios that can form their future licks. they'll need to work on the application of several JamTracks in the Rock /Metal style to build phrasing and feel. This is "THEIR" course. This will be what develops them, excites them and motivates them to practice guitar all week long.

Generic, "One Method Fits All," teachers offer very little to their students. And, I'd seriously suspect that those teachers wouldn't have students for very long. Unless the only players they're teaching are under 10 yrs. of age. Little kids are pretty much the only group who would benefit from this generic method. All other students need to be offered something much more.

The worst teachers are those who lack skills and knowledge. The teacher who hands out a TAB and shows how to jam out the sections of the latest pop song on the radio may be good for a few months. But, if they deflect when they're asked pointed questions on music theory, composing, or advanced styles like jazz - this is a big problem.

A great guitar teacher requires a vast amount of skill. They need to be able to both demonstrate those skills and explain them effectively. And, if they can't, you should probably leave and search out another teacher. Weakness in theory, reading and stylistic knowledge is a sign that a guitarist isn't quite educated enough to be teaching professionally. Sometimes this weakness in knowledge can function when teaching children, (youngsters won't tend to have the array of pointed questions older students will have). But, aside from young children, a teacher who lacks knowledge and skills is a waste of time and money.

Guitar training on a professional level requires the knowledge of a lot of theory. Music topics can be complex and when Classical or Jazz theory comes into the lesson, a teacher should know what they are explaining. Teachers who fudge knowledge, misrepresent facts, and outright "invent" answers to theoretical subjects do a vast disservice to their students. It's terrible when a student will learn incorrect theory, fret-board knowledge and scale application. And, unfortunately it is the students responsibility to be on the look out for when or if their teacher seems caught off-guard on a subject. If this happens too often, then it is time the student stop lessons with that instructor and find a new one.

Music theory is the ammunition of a well trained guitarist. Without a solid foundation in music theory, scales, harmony, ear training and rhythm there will be giant holes in a musicians skill-set. If a teacher cannot teach this information, the student needs to begin looking around for another teacher who will.



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Setting Guitar Practice Goals for Success...

With the coming year around the corner, now's the time to reflect and plan your guitar study goals for 2017. Start with these five points... 

Are you looking at the end of 2016 and wondering why you didn’t achieve more? Why didn’t you learn all of your scales? Why didn’t you get going on your rhythm studies? Why didn’t you record more of your songs?

When you look at goals from a large-scale point of view and evaluate how you did on your quest to achieve them, it’s easy to get discouraged. It’s easy to say, “What’s the point anyway?” Big-picture goals are fantastic and it’s important to dream big, but sometimes you need to take a step back to look at ways to create forward momentum.

1. Get real about where you currently stand
Maybe you’re a guitar player who just purchased an in-depth guitar course, but you've barely scratched the surface with it. You had plans to be at chapter 3 by now, but chapter one is still on your music stand. You need to start by asking yourself whether chapter three was a realistic goal at this point.

What’s the time frame required for learning every chapter? Could you realistically accomplish the learning of each chapter in the time frame you hope? Be honest with yourself about your current ability to learn new material before setting pie-in-the-sky goals. Analyze the material and determine time frames for digesting the information(and be real about it).

Watch my lesson on: "Intermediate Guitar Players Practice Tips" It will help you get started with learning how to organize a plan. You can download the handout by visiting my blog-site

2. Evaluate your assets
What do you do when you begin a new study of material? Do you create a practice plan? Do you list plateaus you want to reach with the material?

It's important to take stock of the success points that the material has  to offer you and you should have a place to reach with it. Always think it terms of what can you do after learning the material that you can't do now. This future planning will work to help take you to the next level.

Maybe you’ve had notable gains in your technique after learning a new picking drill or you've established better work on your music sight-reading and chart reading with a new jazz book. Maybe you're on a better footing with a new course and you're feeling like you have a more established level of skill than before.

If you're at ground zero with study material, you need to look at whether you pre-plan your development based on the course and the methods chapters alone, or are there questions that you should ask yourself to take current stock and evaluate your assets.

3. Look at what's achievable
Now that you’ve identified your assets, it’s time to look at what you can achieve based on where you stand and what you have going for you. If you want to learn how to solo on several styles of progressions but don’t have enough experience playing jazz yet, then look at learning how to play through some simple jazz numbers that are more at your level.

If you want to flip your original band over to become a top-40 cover group, but you have no music in the top-40 area to draw from, you'll need to research current set-lists of top-40 songs and get dedicated to discovering the set-lists of other top-40 bands (both locally and in other cities).

You can find these on both a big and a small scale by researching blogs and band websites. You're going to have to be ultra realistic about why someone would want to support your top-40 band as opposed to other club acts in town, and about what you can achieve at this stage (since your band is an original group and know of as one in your scene).

Again, it's all about planning, but it's also about taking stock for what is achievable.

4. Set weekly goals
Now, look at what you hope to achieve on a weekly basis. When you micro target your goals and make them more achievable, you tend to be smarter about your approach.

Although counterproductive to casting a wide net, you'll probably achieve more in the long run by doing less and only focusing on what has the greatest chance of success.

By making your goals more realistic and achievable, you're also going to be more apt to create momentum from successes. Every day, take one first step toward your weekly goal until you’ve achieved it.

5. Evaluate your weekly success
At the end of the week, evaluate whether you achieved your goal. If you’ve achieved the goal, make a list of three reasons why. If you haven’t, look at three reasons why you didn’t and list one additional step that you can take to improve your plan in the next week ahead.

To dream big, you need to start small. The greatest successes are often made by the smallest, smart steps.



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Ghost Notes & Chords (Percussive Accents)

GuitarBlog: Ghost Notes and Chords (Percussive Accents)

Learn the concept of "Ghost Notes" and how to use them in melody, solos and rhythm guitar...

If you've never heard of the term, "Ghost Notes," and you perhaps have no idea what a ghost note is, (or what chord ghosting even means), I'd bet a million dollars that as soon as you hear them, you'll say "Oh that sound." 

Ghosting is essentially a percussive scratched rhythmic guitar effect. Some people call it a; scratch hit, or a click, or a chuck sound. What really happens is we slightly lift off our fingers over a note (or a group of notes in a chord) and we get the "impression of the sound" of those notes but with a muted or muffled effect, (which carries the term "Ghosted" with it). 

In this lesson, I run through various ghosting techniques with single tones, small chord types even with larger chord types as well. When we're done, I think you'll have a really good idea for what ghost notes are and how to use them.

PART ONE: Example one applies Ghost Notes on a single-note line melody. Using a "B Minor" pentatonic scale lick, we will perform a mix of normal fretted tones and percussive Ghost Notes across a two-bar melodic idea.

Example two adds another tone into the mix with a Double-Stop (two note chord) riff in "E Minor." Here the fret hand needs to float over two notes simultaneously and blend the effects of a clear Double-Stop along with the muted Ghost Notes

PART TWO: Example three demonstrates how Ghost Notes can be applied across a rhythm guitar idea performed within a Pop /Rock rhythmic groove. This key of "G Major" rhythm guitar riff applies several Ghost Note attacks around both open position chords and barre chords. The groove also adds a few single-note phrases as connecting runs.

Example four is the highlight of them all. It showcases the effects of playing Ghost Note technique within the Reggae style. Reggae is one of the most popular music styles where we find this technique performed. Keep in mind that Reggae grooves can make excellent practice exercises for learning how to perform the Ghost Notes within a rhythmic groove. 

Enjoy the lesson!

Ghost Notes & Chords

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Tips for Writing Great Guitar Songs...

Writing songs on guitar can be easy. Writing great songs on guitar can be next to impossible. So, what's the skinny on how you can start writing better songs now...?

1. Songs Start in Silence
Writers are observers. They watch, absorb, and in silence, reflect. The result of that creative reflection is their song. Find a spot in your life – a location, a day or time during the week – where there is silence. No noise, no disturbances, no children running amok, no spouse yelling, no dishes waiting- nothing. Just you, your guitar, a notebook, and a recorder.

2. Write it Down and Record it
You think you’ll remember that great hook, keep tabs on that funky groove, recall those hip chord changes, and retain those insightful lines? You wont. Writing guitar songs is a state of mind, and sometimes a way of life. Support it with a notebook, or a small recorder if you can and have those handy – always. Write your ideas down and record them. If you record musical ideas, make sure you explain to your future self what you played. Even brilliant ideas can be forgotten.

3. Cut and Paste
Think about songs in sections. If you have a verse-like section, go look in your archive and see if you have a section with a chorus feel. Stick them together and see if it works. Many hit songs with interesting energy changes were created like this (see Strawberry Fields, by The Beatles)

4. Use the Internet
Lyric writing is often a creative puzzle. Sites like and are phenomenal sources that can assist you in putting together your puzzle. Aside from the obvious rhyming dictionary, they can help you do many things to, and with, your lyrics. Even if you’re not in a rut, I’d suggest you visit at least a few of the many lyric sites out there for ideas and reference.

5. Write About Things that Matter to You
Avoide cliches. Nobody’s waiting for another song featuring, ‘river deep, mountain high, the way I feel inside, I woke up the morning, dream come true, like the stars above…’ Try to be original by coming up with creative connections, alliterations, places, things that happened to you. And it won’t hurt to read poetry and lyrics from other writers for inspiration. Just remember that your life is rich enough to be an inspiration to others. Use your own experiences, views, words and insights.

6. Watch the Hands
YouTube is a great source for learning guitar tricks. When searching for chords, tabs, grooves, and song ideas, always check out live performances of the guitar players you like. Closely watch their left and right hands.

Pay attention to where they are playing on the neck of the guitar, what strumming pattern are they using, are they using original chord voicings, odd shapes, or are there any open strings ringing etc,.

Often their complex chord grooves, lighting fast hooks, and impossible finger stretches are easier to play than you think. Use that info in your writing and fill your toolbox with these tricks.

7. Disregard Other People’s Opinions
The most frightful, exciting, and nerve wrecking moment in a song writer’s life is when they proudly present their new baby to an audience. Often, these are close friends, relatives, and fellow musicians. You’ll ask them for an opinion and sometimes they’ll give you just that. They will either like it for the wrong reasons, or hate it for the wrong reasons.

You can’t expect an audience to be involved in your song as much as you. This means that they’ll judge your creation based on almost random elements they perceived during your presentation. The song might need to grow on them (or not). But don’t let your creative energy be bogged down by what other people think. Art is not democratic. Idols, Pop-stars, and TV shows have nothing to do with creativity and everything to do with making money. And they do it with middle of the road horse manure, in my opinion.

So What’s Your Excuse?
Let me leave you with a song lyric I wrote back in 2009. It’ll be on my next (fourth) album, to be released in the summer of 2011. I was fed up with a few artists in my surroundings giving me all kinds of reasons why they couldn’t write. The truth is that if you’re a writer you write. If you’re a creator, you create. If you’re an artist, you make art. You don’t do those things because you have to or want to, but because you can’t not do it.


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4 Steps to Better Guitar Playing (Musicianship)


4 Steps to Better Guitar Playing

How to develop a  better understanding of what you need to work on to become a better guitar player...

Playing music that connects with a listener requires a natural flow of melody and groove. Whether you’re playing rock, jazz, bossa-nova, classical, or funk, a flow of melody and groove is always present within a good tune. 

This means playing more musically involves being able to simply play better and that means the musician needs to have a better connection with the flow of the music.  

In this episode of the, "GuitarBlog Insider," I discuss four areas that the musician needs to perfect in order to achieve better overall musicianship. These areas include, "Listening Skills," "Rhythmic Skill," "Focus on the Music," and "Perfect /Slow Practice." 

Once these areas are developed, the musician can gain a well connected feel and technique for playing more musically. Over time, the music produced by the player connects with the audience better and the listener enjoys the process more.

4 Steps to Better Guitar Playing



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