Guitar Gear You Can't Do Without...


Obviously we need a guitar, patch-cords, picks, our amp, etc. But, have you ever established what your critical pieces of gear are, the items that you "need" and use consistently? 

These are the items that totally "have" to be on every gig. And, although they can be different person to person there are a number of must haves... This short article breaks down a number of "essential items," required to keep on hand from gig to gig.

Guitar players love gear! There's always something new that we want, (maybe it isn't something we absolutely need, but we always want stuff). But, what is the essential gear that we actually need?



PEDALS /EFFECTS:
Easily one of the important pieces of gear for the guitarist are their effects and pedals. I know that whether I'm playing an acoustic gig, or a gig on electric with a full band, I never leave for a gig without my trusted effects gear.

For many guitarists a series of favorite pedals will contour their sound on every gig. For me, it's the foolproof way of making most amps I use sound pretty great. I don't use a crazy amount of gain – normally a slightly driven clean channel and maybe (sometimes). Most of my sound is based upon chorus and reverb's. That's why I rely mostly on multi-effects boards. I find I can always work from most of their presets and develop a nice collection of patches that work well. The new ZOOM G5 is a personal favorite. The fact that it has the built in foot pedal and the tube booster allow it to create some amazing sound.

I have occasionally found myself in situations where I'm to borrow an amp I was unaccustomed to. Rather than struggling with unfamiliar foot switches and trying to wrap my head around amp channels (I'd never used before), getting a decent tone from the amp and then sticking the ZOOM in front of it for all of my effects has never let me down.

In a show environment, having a quick solution to these kinds of problems is essential. If you're not at a level where it's practical to be performing with a full backup rig, the ZOOM G5 can be a reliable way to nailing a quick, decent tones, with a switching method that isn't going to mess with you onstage.



POCKET FLASH-LIGHT:
If you've played in a number of clubs, or out-door concerts at night time, I'd bet you've come across trying to get all your gear onstage during a super-quick changeover, and that's when having a good reliable pocket flashlight can be a total lifesaver. I've lost count of the number of times I've been hunting around for a power outlet or trying to patch leads in behind another band's gear in a dark corner of the stage. It might sound obvious, but I spend the same amount of time using it myself as I do lending it to other people. Get yourself a decent quality pocket flashlight – it will last you and it will save you! My go to flashlight is the Streamlight 66318 MicroStream C4 LED Pen Flashlight.

GAFF-TAPE:
Tape... Yes, Tape... If you play a lot of gigs you'll go through this stuff like there's no tomorrow. The two types I always carry are Premium Grade Gaffer Tape By Gafferpower and a roll of standard 3M Painter's Tape.

Whatever the onstage crisis, there's a good chance tape will be able to provide a quick solution which lasts at least until the end of the show. The luminous stuff is also great for marking out the edge of a stage so you don't go toppling over it in the dark.It can also be used to mark areas back-stage for grabbing miscellaneous gear quickly and easily.



YOUR TRUSTED AXE - SET UP AND READY:
Now, I don't mean to imply that you'd ever forget your guitar when walking out the door to a show, but I'm guilty of going off to a gig with my guitar in poor shape. Blame it of being too busy and all that, but it's still bad practice.

The guitar that will be used on a show should be in as good working order and set up as best as possible. Don't take off to a gig with really old strings, (especially on a nylon string). And, don't leave with loose parts, (including jack inputs and strap buttons). Make sure your axe is in solid working order, the strings are fresh, the electronics work 100% and the parts are all tight.

Having a poorly set up guitar on a gig can be a night-mare. Literally an accident waiting to happen. And, when you arrive at the event venue, test everything twice. Double-check all of the gear and know that you are totally ready to go when the stage lights fire up.



IN CLOSING:
Now, there's a lot of stuff I left out, like your amp and other items, and it's not like those aren't important, but most other things can get swapped out. There are a number of times when I've used another person's amp, or a "house-amp," that a club keeps on-stage. But, I will always need my own guitar to be comfortable, and it feels way better to have my own effects unit to get my best tones.

Over time, most players develop a quick mental check-list for their gear. It's dead-rare that I'd ever forget anything these days. But, I used to forget gear ...years ago. I also used to be sloppy about keeping my gear in top-shape. And, after many terrible lessons I've definitely changed my ways.

Your own personal list might not look exactly like mine, but it is vital that you establish a list of your own. Because without clear awareness of your "Gear That You Can't Do Without," you will very likely forget or neglect something, and it not only affects your show, but it affects you mentally. And, you simply don't perform as well as you're able to when things go wrong as opposed to when things go 100% smooth on stage.



Micro Lesson 221: "F Blues" Blues-Rock Lick


Welcome to... "Micro-Lesson 221"
 

This Micro-Lesson covers a "quick and flashy" attention getting lick from the "F Blues" scale. 

This lick is set within a "Shuffle-Rhythm" feel and operates from the 6th fingerboard position at 5th guitar string. The initial start to the lick is somewhat slower paced and steadily ascends from 5th to the 3rd string using a recurring pattern. 
Eighth-notes anchor the run across the first two measures.

The lick takes a separate turn into the final stretch covering a series of eighth-note triplets with additional sixteenth-note runs. This creates a burst of speed entering at the end of the third measure and into the fourth. The speed really grabs the attention of the listener and sounds very cool as the lick doubles back to resolve where it began at 5th string. 

As with any faster lick, take your time learning the fingering and the feel of the part. Phrasing with any speed lick needs to begin only after the ideas are committed to memory. As always, use your metronome to build the speed. Enjoy!

Micro Lesson 221: "F Blues" Blues-Rock Lick





Fender Jimi Hendrix Stratocaster...


If you fancy a little taste of Hendrix the new Fender Jimi Hendrix Stratocaster may be for you. 

It is not really what one might exactly call an authentic Hendrix Strat (due to the fact it is a right handed model with a reverse head-stock and bridge pickup angle), but it certainly gets you in the ball park of the guitars Jimi played, the Olympic white below for instance is a nod to the guitar he used at Woodstock in ’69.



Jimi Hendrix Stratocaster®, Maple Fingerboard, Olympic White

fender-hendrix-white

Jimi Hendrix Stratocaster®, Maple Fingerboard, Black

fender-hendrix-black

“The reverse head-stock produces a longer string length for the bass strings, creating a tighter playing feel along with easier bending and vibrato on the treble strings. A trio of unsurpassed American Vintage ’65 single-coil pickups includes a reverse-slant bridge pickup, producing uniquely inspiring tone with tight, warm sound and enhanced upper harmonics and definition.

The highly versatile 9.5”-radius “C”-shaped maple neck with medium jumbo frets offers a flatter playing surface—ideal for chording while simultaneously allowing you to bend notes to the stratosphere during scorching solos.



Commemorating Hendrix’s unrivaled legacy, the large ’70s-style head-stock bears the guitarist’s signature on the rear. A unique neck plate displays a shoulders-up silhouette of the man himself and the engraved inscription, “Authentic Hendrix,” leaving no doubt as to the inspiration behind this guitar.

Available in classic Olympic White or Black, both with chrome hardware and including a gig bag.”

Check the Fender website for more info.

Micro Lesson 220: "Eb Major" Jazz Progression


Welcome to... "Micro-Lesson 220"
 

This Micro Lesson runs through a common sounding Jazz Progression in the key of, "Eb Major." 

This jazzy progression is quite typical of those found in many of the popular Jazz Standards. It begins from the tonic chord of the key and extends it out to a ninth interval creating the extended "Ebmaj9" from the maj7 chord. 

In measure two, the "Bbm7" chord enters and while the root (Bb) is the proper 5th degree of this key center, the chord quality is different. This is explained through a method called "Modal Interchange." This method is an interchange of chord qualities between the major and minor key signatures. So, the "Bbm7" chord is technically being "borrowed" from the parallel key of "Eb Minor." 

An extension of an 11th is placed upon this "Minor V-Chord" and it behaves in this harmony to pull-up into an, "Abmaj7," (the proper IV-Chord of the key). 

Measure three has a short Pentatonic scale run off of our "Abmaj7" chord and acts to highlight a return into measure four. The "Dominant V" chord of "Bb Dominant" is applied to turn the progression around back to the top. An extension of a 13th is used to strengthen the return to the Tonic chord of "Ebmaj7." Enjoy!

Micro Lesson 220: "Eb Major" Jazz Progression





Guide to "Pro Recording Studio" Etiquette...


Recording studios can sometimes be intimidating, and there are usually unspoken rules that you may not be aware of. 

While there are widely varying expectations of recording artists nowadays, we've compiled a list of the most common faux pas. Avoid doing the five things listed below to ensure you'll be respected in professional recording environments, avoid unnecessary conflict, and get invited back for future projects.

1. Arrive ahead of time, or on time, but NEVER late
In states like California where traffic can be hour-long standstills, plan ahead for every session. Bonus tip for LA's studios: always keep a roll of quarters on hand for parking meters. Ask locals about alternate methods of transportation and secret routes, and if anything dire ever happens, be a professional and call whoever is in charge to let him or her know the situation.

Not doing this sends a terrible message to session musicians, writers, producers, engineers, or any potential bystanders present. Additionally, it can negatively alter the vibe of the session by shifting the moods of those you kept waiting. Especially in renowned studios, you never know who will be in the control room (e.g., big-label A and R agents, top-talent managers, A-list artists, etc.), so you want to make sure you're always at your best.



2. Touching or moving around studio equipment
If you're recording with a band of fellow musicians you feel comfortable with, it's easy to slip back into rehearsal mode, forgetting the expectations of the professionals around you. Remember that you're only borrowing the spaces you record in, and renting out equipment that you don't own.

Moving equipment such as amps or mics without speaking with someone, preferably the engineer, can undoubtedly create tension. Something you may think is harmless could noticeably affect the sound or acoustic treatment that your team is working meticulously to sculpt. If they don't know what changed, it can be incredibly frustrating to solve, and time consuming to re-mediate the varied sound.

Lastly, if you're invited in the control room to listen back to material, never assume that the invitation is extended to turn knobs or raise faders. Engineering is a craft, and production is an acquired skill where science and art meet; don't step on the toes of those minds you hired to help you create music.



3. Do Not tune up regularly throughout the session (especially the drums)
Tuning is particularly important for songwriters using string instruments or live drum kits in their arrangements. String quartets and larger ensembles require time to synchronize pitch, so carve out time for this throughout the duration of the session.

Before you decide to record, make sure to invest in brand-new guitar strings and take the time to properly tune each string both to a tuner and in relation to fellow players so your music comes out clean and accurate. An insider tip to ensure proper intonation in recordings is to straighten the neck of your guitar out, as a bowed neck can lead to inaccurate tuning and an overall poor quality recording.

Some artists think of tuning as a one-and-done occurrence, but it's crucial to revisit tuning multiple times during a session as pitches naturally waver over time. A good producer will help guide you, but try to develop an ear for snare and kick pitch variations, along with timbres of toms and cymbal resonances. These factors can play a major role in shaping the overall impression of your music and preventing tonal overlap (e.g., the frequency of the kick drum competing with the bass).



4. Set realistic recording goals with specific timelines
One of the worst things to do in the studio is be indecisive. This is your recording, and you should have opinions about every aspect of each sound. You and your producer should be ready to buckle down and make difficult decisions that eventually culminate in your resulting album. Constantly changing your mind and not having direction will cause your productivity to be practically zero.

Before recording, you should be able to conceptualize an ideal of what your album is going to sound like. Before even arriving at the studio, make sure all players involved understand your artistic perspective. Creativity is hard to compartmentalize and structure, so you want to set out attainable goals for every session you’re involved in. Don't expect to record 15 songs in a single 12-hour lockout, and brainstorm each musician's needs, fitting them into a master timeline of events. Don't forget to include rest or break times, and factor in the potential for unexpected obstacles to appear, leaving time to restructure and troubleshoot.



5. Speak up if you're uncomfortable
Pressure can mount in recording spaces, and the expectation to capture perfection may hinder your ability to focus. This is completely normal. However, don't be afraid to speak up about other external factors that add to the forces keeping you from creating the sounds you envision. These may include:

- the temperature of the live room
- humidity control for vocalists and wind instrument players
- the lighting and surrounding ambiance
- imaginary or live audiences
- the time of day you're recording

Managing all of these elements is important in establishing a comfortable environment in which everyone is able to function at their peak. Also, having healthy, energy-boosting snacks (bananas, apples, yogurt, nuts, fresh water), on hand is key, along with staying hydrated.

The goal of studio recording is to create an atmosphere in which creativity can thrive and transparency can exist. Music is an outward expression of humanity, and it's important to take measures to ensure that you as the artist are able to access your emotions with focus and clarity, uninhibited by the studio environment.



Micro Lesson 219: "A Minor" Pop-Rock Style Intro.


Welcome to... "Micro-Lesson 219"
 

This Micro Lesson breaks down a Pop-Rock Style song intro. riff from the key of "A Minor." 

The riff operates off of using a pedal of the 5th guitar string open "A." This string not only works to carry the low-end of this phrase, but also to anchor the key center's tonic and to form a harmony using a series of descending scale tones on the 4th guitar string. 

In measure one, the open "A" string enters followed by a simple fifth-interval arpeggio idea across an "A5" chord. In measure two this idea continues down a whole-step off of the "G5" chord. In measure three, there is further continuation of this idea with the line heading down to the VI-chord of the key (F5). 

Throughout each of these measures, further support is offered to those chords, (A5, G5, F5), by way of short melodic concepts played from off of our 2nd string. The turnaround idea in measure four is a simple "A5" riff that involves a hammer-on concept from our open 4th and 3rd strings. 

This lesson in Pop-Rock intro. phrases is a nice melodic idea that's fun to learn, very common sounding and one that can be brought up to a decent level of skill in a fairly short period of time. 

Use a metronome or drum machine to build the speed. Enjoy!

Micro Lesson 219: "A Minor" Pop-Rock Style Intro.





Songwriter's Guide To Home Recording


When designing a studio and purchasing the equipment for it, you need to decide what you’re studio is going to be used for, and what kind of music you are going to be making?

This guide to studio equipment is the essentials for a home-studio based songwriter looking to do very professional releases of worthy recordings made right in the comfort of at home.

So Where Do You Start?
In current times the most popular kind of multi-track for sound recording is a DAW (digital audio workstation). Depending on what DAW software you choose should reflect what you want to do in your studio and how advanced you would like your music production skills to be. An industry leader is of course Avid's Pro-Tools. Practically a household name, Pro-Tools can do it all and is a favorite of studios both large and small.

After you’ve decided on your computer and DAW software the next step is to pick the best audio interface. A high percentage of signal path fidelity is in converting your signal from analogue to digital and vice versa.



So think carefully about how much you can afford to spend and how many simultaneous inputs and outputs you’re going to need and whether you require External Word Clock, S/Pdif, Optical and MIDI connections and if so! How many ports are you going to be using.

One of the simplest and favorite units on the market right now is the Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 USB Recording Audio Interface.

 
This compact power-house unit is suitable for mic's. including; moving coil, condenser and ribbon microphones regardless of the source. Phantom power is provided for mics that need it. It's become a favorite for many home studios world-wide!

Monitoring your recording
At this point you need to think about how you want to monitor your music production or recording, mixing and mastering. What’s best for you, passive or active monitors. What are the acoustics of the room you’re going to be monitoring in like. Will your house mate’s be trying to sleep in the room upstairs while you’re slaving away on your next “big mix”. The Mackie CR4 Monitor pair are a home studio favorite and can't be beat for their power, quality and low price. The CR4's are top-notch and sell for under $150.00.



Once you’ve got the basic idea of what gear you need to get started, your next step is to look at what essential and variable peripherals are best for you and your situation.

Recording Vocals
If you are a singer songwriter then you’re after recording vocals with the best clarity possible. The SM58 is and has been the industry standard, close proximity vocal microphone for many years. However you may want to look into some other options like the Shure SM7B Vocal Dynamic Microphone, Cardioid (shown below).



For home recording a condenser microphone would probably be far better suited than a dynamic microphone in 90% of your recording scenarios. A good condenser microphone gives you a much warmer sound with more clarity, as well as, a lower signal to noise ratio.

For acoustic guitar songwriters, you might want to look into a second condenser microphone so you can record your guitar in the same performance as your vocals. While you might be happy with the sound of your acoustic guitar pickup plugged straight into the audio interface. A microphone gives you a way better sound due to the wider scope for recording in terms of proximity and axis to capture the exact representation of the guitar sound you desire.

Another benefit to having a condenser microphone is you could simply place the microphone in the room and capture a natural room recording along with close proximity mic placement.



Recording Piano
For the piano based songwriter there is a few different options to consider when it comes to how to record any acoustic piano parts. The most obvious is simply to place a pair of good condenser microphones on an acoustic piano and hit record. Though for a novice at recording, a piano can be a very complex instrument to both mic and capture well. Plus, if you’re acoustic piano is out of tune then it will also be out of tune on the recording.

The second option would be to buy a full size MIDI keyboard with sustain pedal and connect this direct to your interface via MIDI or direct to your computer via USB. The signal from the MIDI keyboard will be recorded to your DAW and you’ll need a Virtual Piano instrument like the XLN Audio addictive Keys to playback a piano sound. It really is very simple and the software provides you with a range of piano sounds to choose from.

Speakers or Headphones
You may be all set to record your songs, but you’re also going to need a pair of speakers or headphones to listen back to your recordings.

While you could plug direct into your Hi-Fi from your audio interface, it would be more suitable to listen back for through a pair of proper flat response studio monitors in order to give you a true representation of what you have just recorded, in terms of both performance and for understanding your overall signal clarity. KRK Rokit speakers are an industry favorite, and you cannot get much better than these speakers, for under $300.00.


Should you be doing overdubs such as backing vocal then you would also need a pair of high-quality studio headphones to avoid getting bleed from the speakers into the microphone while you're recording.

 The Audio-Technica ATH-M50 headphones are one of the industries favorite pairs of head-gear and when it comes to quality and price the Audio-Technica headphones win time after time.

Last up you’re going to need to put a little aside for cables etc. For a recording setup of this caliber, be prepared to spend up to $200 of your studio budget for professional studio cables and microphones stands, etc.



Micro Lesson 218: "E Mixolydian" Classic Rock Riff


Welcome to... "Micro-Lesson 218"
 

This Micro-Lesson covers a Classic Rock riff from the, "E Mixolydian," mode. The riff is based upon the open, "E" 6th string, and includes a series of triads played around some notes out of the, "E Mixolydian Scale." 

The Mixolydian Scale is one of the modes of the major scale. It is built from off of the 5th degree of the major. The "E Mixolydian" mode comes from the 5th degree of an, "A Major" scale. 

In the riff from this Micro Lesson we begin from an open 6th string "E" and then hit upon the 4th string triad of the "E Major" chord. This occurs with the help of an added suspended tone, generating the sound of an "E sus4" chord. 

Measure two contains a short lick from the scale of, "E Mixolydian," which focuses upon a select few double-stop chords.

In measure three, we move through the chords of, "F# minor," "E major," and "D major." These chords help lead us into our final measure where the "A major" chord operates as a IV-chord to I-chord resolution into the modes tonic chord. 

The chords and licks in this riff are not overly challenging, but they will require practice based on how familiar they feel. Some work will likely be necessary before the riff's speed can be brought up to the best levels for generating the right type of overall feel for this style. Enjoy!

Micro Lesson 218: "E Mixolydian" Classic Rock Riff





Single String Funky Motown Riffs



GuitarBlog: Single String Funky Motown Riffs...

This week on the GuitarBlog we'll be running through how to build "Single-String Funky Motown Riffs." 

Single-note Scale Riffs are definitely a big part of playing funk, and they can also integrate well against the performance of small chord shots played in and around the funky riff ideas. 

In this lesson, we'll be looking at how to plan funky single-string riffs on the guitar fingerboard. And, how some of the guitar techniques involved with performing them will play a role with getting the right type of sound. 

Plus, we'll look at how you can set the pick-ups of your guitar to get a good quality tone for performing this style of music.




Single String Funky Motown Riffs



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Marcus Miller Shares His Top 5 Tips for Musicians...


Bass guitar master Marcus Miller, is one of the world's most renowned bassists, known for an impressive solo career, as well as, for working with such jazz legends as; Miles Davis, Herbie Hancock, Dizzy Gillespie, and many, many more.

Marcus has offered his Top 5 tips that every bassist (and musician) should reach for...

Chatting with Music Radar, Mr. Miller stressed the importance of jamming, keeping an eye on the big picture, crafting your tone, and staying healthy. A few quotes from the interview are given below.

1. Play with other musicians
"You know, we've got a new generation of bass players and I call them bedroom players because they basically play solo on a six-string bass. They can play the bass and the chords and the melody, but they're more like guitar players because they play by themselves a lot."

"It's beautiful, but I would just warn the guys that you really need to make sure you play with other people, because that's a whole other education. Bending your rhythm to match a drummer or a guitar player and really learning how to work in a group is important."



"The one complaint I've heard from other musicians about the new generation of bass players is that they don't know how to make the music feel good. They know how to play beautiful and very technically interesting things, but they kind of miss the main reason for playing music!"

"I would advise bass players to go and play with other musicians, every opportunity they get. It's not as easy these days because everything happens over the internet, so you don't have guys playing together like they used to."

2. Pay attention to your tone
"You just need to be aware of where you are and what might be necessary from you. If you've got guitars and keyboards and horns that all operate in the same mid-range area, then you might need to get a big thick fat sound and fill the band up and help the drummer out, you know what I mean? It’s really important to do that."

3. Listen beyond your instrument
"You've got to figure out what you're playing, man, but listen to the whole sound and figure out what you can do to make the song sound good - like, don't play your crazy sweet bass lick right in the middle of when the singer says the most important word in the song, you know what I mean? Listen to the song, man, and make the song sound better."



4. The bass players we admire most only played one bass
"When I think of the guys that really made an impact on me - Jaco [Pastorius] played a 1962 Jazz Bass, Stanley Clarke plays an Alembic bass, Victor Wooten plays that Fodera, Larry Graham plays a Fender Jazz Bass and James Jamerson played a Fender Precision.

"They didn't walk around with five basses and say, 'For this song, I'm going to play my blahblahblah...' They were connected to their instrument and their voice became that instrument. And this includes me, too, because I've been playing the same [Fender] Jazz Bass since my mom bought it for me in 1977. Although it's really fun, and I have, like, 35 basses or something like that, but I only really ever play one consistently."

5. Take care of yourself
"I don't drink and I don't smoke. You know, it can take me a while to find the right head-space when I’m writing music or when I'm getting ready to go onstage. I've got to do a little bit more work than somebody who just smokes a spliff or something, you know what I mean?"

"But I think, in the long run, man - and I've been around a long time - I think it's really benefited me to keep myself together. It's so easy - especially when you're traveling on the road - to not get the right sleep. There are always people around after every concert wanting to invite you to hang out at the bar or wherever and it's very dangerous. I've seen a lot of musicians suffer."



"If you work in an office for a big corporation, you can't show up high, period. You're going to get fired but, as a musician, you can get away with a lot. People know you're high but you've played so great that they just forgive you or they say, 'That's part of it!'

"That's dangerous, because nobody's going to call you up for being under the influence. All they're going to do when they read in the newspaper that you checked out at a young age is go, 'Oh yeah, that's what musicians do!' You have to have the self-discipline to keep yourself together. I think that's really important."



Micro Lesson 217: "C Minor 7th" Arpeggio Lick


Welcome to... "Micro-Lesson 217"
 

This Micro Lesson covers a fast-paced "C" Minor 7th Arpeggio lick that operates over two fingerboard positions. 

The Minor 7th arpeggio patterns used for this lesson are excellent shapes for playing fast minor licks across the guitar neck. In this Micro-Lesson we are using the 2nd and 10th position "Minor 7th" arpeggio shapes in the key of "C." 

In the first half of this lick we're starting from the 5th string in 3rd position with multiple position shifts. The first one takes place into 5th, then to 8th position using slides to make for  smooth transitions. 

The second half of this lick applies a lofty position shift all the way up the neck to 10th position. Once there, we're taking the arpeggio from off of the 4th string and transitioning higher up the neck with a slide on the second string. 

A turnaround occurs up on the 1st string using two pull-offs to bring the lick down onto 3rd string and resolve into the 3rd strings 12th fret "G" tone (the arpeggio's 5th degree). 

The lick sounds great either slow or fast. But, be careful of knowing your fingerings quite well when building up the speed. The various shifts occur rather quickly once the pace of the lick increases. Enjoy!

Micro Lesson 217: "C Minor 7th" Arpeggio Lick





Micro Lesson 216: "G Major" Open-G Tuning Riff


Welcome to... "Micro-Lesson 216"
 

This Micro Lesson explores the fantastic sounds of "G Open Tuning," with a fun to play riff in the key of "G Major." 

Open "G" tuning applies a lowered 6th and 5th string, as well as, a lowered 1st string with each being dropped down by a whole-step. This changes the guitar's standard tuning from the typical, "E, A. D, G, B, E." to an open chord style effect of, "D, G, D, G, B, D." 

The riff begins by way of an eighth-note strum from our open inner strings and leads to a two-string barre at the third fret. A 2nd string lick takes us into more double-stop's and brings in the second measure. 

Here, (in measure two), we find a few more licks that take advantage of the open 4th and 5th strings. This leads us into a turnaround concept that highlights our return back to the open "G" chord, (as we had used in measure one). 

However, measure three adds some nice slides on both 3rd and 4th strings with a target tone of the open, "G," 3rd string to balance out each the licks. 

Measure four is a great example of how much fun open tuning can be with lot's of open-string highlights centered upon the resolution of both slide and pull-off licks to all of the five top open string strings, (1st through 5th strings). 

Use a tuner to establish this tuning format. And, take your time developing the abundance of slide phrases in each of the various fret-board locations. Enjoy!

Micro Lesson 216: "G Major" Open-G Tuning Riff





Conquering Stage Fright...


A lot of people offer advice on how to deal with anxiety before a live show, where you'll find yourself on a stage in front of hundreds or even thousands of people. However, that's not where anxiety ends. Nervousness can creep in at any time, and in the most inconvenient of times. 

Whether it's meeting fans on tour, talking with major label representatives, and even during intimate in-studio performances in front of an A-list producer, Musicians absolutely must conquer their fears and project confidence.

Anecdotal tips:

Clear Your Mind - Meditate for one minute
It is well known that closing your eyes for a one-minute meditation session can transform just about any tense situation into a more manageable event. If you have musician's earplugs, use them to block out external noise and focus on deep breathing, slowly counting to three with every inhale/exhale.

Once you feel yourself relaxing, mentally scan all of the muscles in your body, taking note of any tightness or twitching, and work to eliminate it. One of the most detrimental consequences of performance stress is muscle tension, which can severely inhibit musical performances, so a quick meditation can make all the difference.



Recognize the warning signs
Noticing the signs of when an anxiety attack starts is key so you can tackle it before the incident worsens. Symptoms include increased heart rate, feelings of helplessness, chest tightness, trembling or shaking, sweaty palms, and changes in perceived body temperature (e.g., hot flashes or chills).

A lot of artists tend to view these warning signs as a natural part of the process and try to fight through them without taking a break. While this might work for some, it's much easier to discontinue whatever it is that you're doing, take a few minutes to isolate that tension, and relieve it.

Try using cue words
Musicians have a tendency to focus on self-critique and analyze every detail of their performances. While this can be beneficial when practicing, the performing mindset has to be clear of negativity. If you're in the middle of a performance that can't be interrupted, you must learn to redirect and channel your nervous energy into art.

Experiment with cue words. Cue words are a useful way enable you to instantaneously call up neurological responses that you might forget about while onstage. While you're practicing, think of words or short phrases that elicit effortless executions of difficult passages like "fluid," "light," or "smooth." While you may not realize it, if you practice implementing these mental cues during rehearsal when you're in the heat of the moment, they can actually cue your brain into responding with muscle memory and relieve tension on the spot.

Know that you're not alone in struggling with this process. BeyoncĂ© even admitted, "I think it's healthy for a person to be nervous. It means you care – that you work hard and want to give a great performance. You just have to channel that nervous energy into the show."



Trick your brain by smiling

Lastly, try and smile more. It can actually trick your brain into releasing serotonin, which can relieve stress and make you feel more at ease. If you're in a tense situation and feel the onset of an anxiety attack, think of reasons to smile because, after all, you're pursuing your dream career. Fake it 'til you make it! If you appear to be in control of a situation, happy, and comfortable – chances are, people will trust you, giving you the confidence to achieve whatever your goal is at that moment.

The science behind it all...

What's happening in your brain?
Anxiety is the complex sum of several cognitive processes that work to balance perception with demand. Your brain basically tries to calculate the odds of success while determining the potential for failure. This internal battle is really a fight between your brain's left and right hemispheres.

The left brain's evaluation of logic, facts, and analysis is competing with the right brain's creative, imaginative, feeling-based motor skills. This is why you see sports teams rally with highly energetic and positive self speak. At risk of oversimplifying, what coaches are doing is stimulating their players' right hemispheres, quieting the sometimes overly critical left brain.



Be Your Own Motivational Coach
Don't be afraid to be your own motivational coach, constantly repeating phrases like, "I've got this," or "I'm ready." If you're well-prepared, this will undoubtedly help convince your right brain to take over and allow you to deliver every time without being hindered by overanalyzing. Can a quick cardio workout reduce performance anxiety?

Ever had a post-workout high? It's no coincidence. After a brief workout, the body requires extra oxygen to create more ATP for muscle recovery. More oxygen means less cortisone, which means less stress, more focus, and calmer nerves.

Regular cardio does wonders for musicians – especially wind/horn players and vocalists. The maximum capacity of oxygen the body is capable of using is called VO2 max, so essentially, the higher the VO2 max, the more fit a person is. Working towards increasing your endurance on the treadmill can actually allow you to breathe more efficiently and have stronger lung muscles for hefty breath support. Going for a quick, 20-minute run an hour or so before a big event, meetup, or performance can work amazingly well in reducing the potential for the onset of an anxiety attack.



Which foods help to reduce stress?

Below are a list of foods that are proven to help reduce stress and stimulate healthy brain activity. Next time you're headed to that terrifying meeting or big performance, grab one of these snacks beforehand and own it!

Green, leafy vegetables: Spinach contains folate, which produces dopamine, a pleasure-inducing brain chemical, says Heather Mangieri, RDN.

Dark chocolate: The antioxidants in cocoa trigger the walls of your blood vessels to relax, lowering blood pressure and improving circulation. Additionally, these antioxidants can reduce levels of cortisol, the stress hormone primarily responsible for anxiety attacks.

Turkey breast: Tryptophan, an amino acid, helps produce serotonin, which regulates hunger and increases happiness.

Whole grain oatmeal: Oats have complex carbohydrates that can stimulate serotonin production without spiking blood glucose levels, preventing insulin surges, which only enhances feelings of anxiousness.



Yogurt: A 2013 UCLA study confirmed that the probiotics in yogurt can reduce brain activity in areas that handle strong emotions such as stress, especially in women. Just watch out for excessive added sugars.

Salmon: Omega-3 fatty acids in salmon have anti-inflammatory properties that may help counteract the negative effects of stress hormones, says Lisa Cimperman, RD, of the University Hospital's Case Medical Center.

Blueberries: "The antioxidants and phytonutrients found in berries fight in your defense, helping improve your body's response to stress and stress-related free radicals," says Health.com.

Bananas: Naturally high in potassium, they help to lower blood pressure, as well as boast the same tryptophan turkey contains, helping to improve memory, concentration, and overall mood.





Micro Lesson 215: "Bb Major" Jazz-Swing Melody


Welcome to... "Micro-Lesson 215"
 

This Micro Lesson takes a look at a fairly basic "Jazz-Swing" melody line in the key of, "Bb Major." 

The melody begins by running through a three note, "Bb Major," arpeggio. A hammer-on then brings in the note of, "D," (which is a strong tone since it is the 3rd of the tonic chord and the 5th of the VI-chord of "Gm7." 

Into the second measure we find a target tone of our key's V-chord. "F7." The target is the. "F7." chords "minor 7th," degree of, "Eb." 

Into the third measure we find a nice chromatic idea that highlights scale tones related to the key's IV-chord of "Ebmaj7." The next phrase targets the minor 3rd chord tone of the next chord "Dm7." 

Our fourth and final measure introduces an arpeggio built from off of the turnaround chord, "F7." The phrases within this melody are all manageable. Most players with even intermediate skills should have no issues performing the lines. 

Take your time understanding the fingerings and memorize the lines for the entire melody prior to working at speeding up the parts. Enjoy!

Micro Lesson 215: "Bb Major" Jazz-Swing Melody





Better Musical Ability - Without Using Your Instrument...


If you're only working on music when you're in the studio or in your band rehearsal space, you're missing out on tons of opportunities to become a better musician. 

Sneaking in little moments throughout the day really add up and make a difference over time.

But, how and when can you take advantage of those opportunities? Try incorporating these six little hacks in the pockets of time you have, and watch yourself gradually become a better musician.

1. Make use of commutes, lunch breaks, and waiting in line
Whether you're waiting for the train or stuck in traffic, commuting probably takes more hours of your life than you care to acknowledge. Use moments like this to rehearse music you're learning in your head. It doesn't have to be transportation-related either; maybe on your lunch break at your day job, you can devote 15 to 20 minutes to mentally practicing. If you're looking to learn a new piece of music, download the sheet music onto your phone or take a picture of it, read it in your head, and softly hum it out.



Besides scanning the technical aspects of your music, there's the performance itself that also needs mental attention. When you have downtime away from your instrument, start planning out what your next show will look like. What will you wear? What will you say between songs? How do you want to represent yourself? Do you have a set-list ready? Don't leave these questions for the last minute.

Envision yourself walking onstage, talking to the audience, and performing song by song. Run through the songs' changes – do you switch guitars between certain songs? Next time you're in that ridiculously long Chipotle line or waiting at the doctor's office, catch up on rehearsing your performances.

2. Analyze music as you listen to it
As trained musicians, it's nearly impossible to just listen to music without thinking about it from a technical perspective ("That key change saved the song," "This rhythm is off," "The singer is great, but his technique is going to ruin his voice"). You know how it goes. But beyond just listening with a musician's ear, really dissect what you're listening to.

Carry a pair of headphones on you so you're always ready to analyze and learn from new music. If you're a producer, ask yourself about the mix: What's in the left ear? Why is it there? What's the bass doing? Or maybe if you're a drummer, listen to the placements of each kick throughout the song: How do they build dynamically? Are they corresponding with the bass? Take notes while you listen, and really dig deep into what it is you like about the music or what makes it sound professional so that you can apply it to your own music.



3. Turn concerts into a learning experience
When you're seeing live music, you can't practice – but you can still become a better musician. As fun as it can be to hit the bars and hang out at your favorite club listening to a few good bands and being with your friends, there's also a ton you can learn while you do that.

Try to get a close spot so you can really see how the band is performing. What is it about those certain performances that make the audience (that includes you!) the most excited and engaged? Which songs have people staring down at their phones or heading to the bartender? What's their banter like in between songs? What visual elements make a huge impact on the experience? By paying attention to live shows as both a fan and a musician, you'll take away so much more from it. Take notes on how the band commands the stage and what specifically made the show great so that you can try to incorporate those elements into your next show.

4. Wake up just 30 minutes earlier
Set your alarm for half an hour early and wake up with one goal in mind: music. Stay completely focused for just 30 minutes in the morning on what you can do to be a better musician.

If you're a drummer living with roommates, this might not be the best time to practice your full kit, but that doesn't mean you can't rehearse on a practice drum pad with an in-ear metronome. If you're a singer, you can focus on breathing exercises as opposed to full-blown belting. For producers, work on your mixes. For songwriters, write stream-of-consciousness lyrics or clean up drafts.



By giving yourself just that small extra cushion of time first thing in the morning, you'll feel amazing knowing that before your day has even started, you've already made progress on your musical goals.

5. Watch footage of your practice sessions
Beyond just recording your practices to listen back to where you need improvement, it's also helpful to film them. Prop your phone up, film your practice, and when you have downtime, watch it. You'll be able to analyze the audio and takes notes on where you need to improve, but you'll also be able to see the way you perform. Maybe you’re too stiff and you want to loosen up, or you jump around just a little too much and need to relax a bit. Look back and see what you like best and where you can make improvements in order to deliver the best performance you can at your next gig.

6. Download music-related smartphone apps
The next time you're bored and find your finger hovering over the Candy Crush icon, remember that there are so many more productive (and still fun!) ways to use your smartphone as a musician.

Download instrument apps to aid in writing music, or keep your skills and knowledge sharp by downloading a music theory app and quizzing yourself on intervals and chord voicings. If you don't have a smartphone, you can use a computer for these exercises – you just won't be as… well, mobile.