Rhythmic Reality...

Composing music with interesting rhythmic patterns is not only a lot of fun, it's excellent practice for learning how to discover new musical phrasing ideas.

When our music applies more complex rhythmic grooves we tend to expand our skills for rhythm into uncharted territory. This is really good work and can be taken to whole new levels if we force ourselves to create charts for everything we compose.

When it comes to becoming a better composer, there is one thing that I would stress above all others and that's notating your musical ideas. Learning how to write out a chart with the correct rhythms and phrasing subtleties is one of the best practice concepts I can think of.

Being able to notate concepts like strange sixteenth-note grooves and knowing how fast licks and runs look notated with accurate rhythmic concepts is an excellent skill.

Of course, this skill does not appear quickly and easily. This will take a very long time and a lot of practice.

These days I am making music and TAB charts all the time. I create them for my students enrolled in my studio lessons. I make charts weekly for posting on my various; Blogs, my Guitar Micro-Lessons, and for my weekly video lessons. And, I make charts for new guitar eBooks and the curriculum I sell off of my websites shopping cart system. It's a lot of work, but because I've practiced it for 30 years I don't find it very difficult. In fact, it's the opposite. I find myself looking forward to making charts and especially discovering how the rhythms will operate.

Since the introduction to the two most popular TAB software, (back in the late 1990's), known of as, "Guitar Pro" and "PowerTab," making charts has become a lot easier compared to when I first started. Whether you're using one of the popular guitar notation software systems, or if you're using, "Finale" or, " Sibelius," making charts is a lot easier than when I was starting out.

The main benefit nowadays is an instant test for the accuracy of our rhythmic content. Before this, constant testing, counting with a metronome, and double-checking was crucial. Now, if we feel unsure about a section we've notated, we can simply use the handy MIDI playback functions available in all of these software systems to quickly check the accuracy of rhythmic ideas.

As musicians, we are generally trying to push ourselves in order to become better. However, the area of 'rhythmic development' tends to take a back seat compared to more fun practice concepts like improvising, or developing better guitar techniques.

I don't think I've ever met a student who couldn't stand to improve their ability to read rhythms and to better control their sense of; meter, timing and groove on the instrument. This is why we need to balance our practice time between fun guitar topics and more complex systematic learning.

One of the best ways to stretch ourselves rhythmically, (aside from always learning how to become better at reading rhythmic notation), is to compose more complex rhythmic lines and chord progressions.

This is not only fun but it adds a much needed, "extra devotion," to playing better rhythm on the instrument. It also forces a higher level of attention to rhythm. However, when you first start down this path it can feel like someone's thrown a monkey wrench into your guitar skills.

To help you with getting started in this direction I wanted to suggest a couple of study ideas that will get you thinking about different kinds of rhythmic units and how to use them to become better "rhythm pattern players."

In example one, I have a very choppy sixteenth-note rhythmic groove that leans to the style of Funk guitar. This phrase not only uses several broken sixteenth-note phrases, but it also loops the phrase in a partial segment.

Learning how to both play and notate these types of rhythmic phrases is excellent work that will build better playing skills while also stretching your ability to notate complex phrases in a TAB and rhythm chart.

Listen to the audio example and then learn to play the part notated below.

In the next example, I've created a melody that applies a mix of longer sustained note durations along side of faster sixteenth-note fills. There's even a very quick hammer-on, pull-off slide lick that is played in the sixteenth-note triplet feel. Take your time learning the faster sections of this example. And, always use a metronome to build speed and accuracy.

Listen to the audio example and then learn to play the part notated below.

Before I wrap up I'd like to mention that learning to compose, perform and eventually notate more complex rhythms will never be an absolute skill. You'll get parts wrong and you'll become frustrated with different sections of music. This is natural for all musicians. We are artists and the musician in us never plays or notates music perfectly (like a robot) all of the time.

When you become highly involved with composing, you'll start realizing that it's a living and changing thing. You'll change parts and play ideas differently all the time. And, you'll be heading back to your notation to make changes until it feels better for you. You might even make changes as you're recording in the studio!

Just realize that it's all good. Composing interesting rhythms is a challenge, but it's a fun challenge and the more you do it, the better you'll get. One thing is for sure. The more composing you do with complicated rhythms, the better your improvisational skills will become.

Remember that composing is still learning to play the music you hear in your head. The only difference is that improvisation is more spontaneous, so you will need to speed up the composing process many times faster to improvise.

Thanks for reading this week's Blogger post.
- Andrew Wasson

Musicians Must Master Marketing As Well As Their Instruments...

Musicians, educators and music professionals face a myriad of new challenges today. While the costs of recording, producing and distributing music have decreased, the opportunities to earn dollars through traditional and digital channels are diminishing...

While Taylor Swift recently came out against streaming services like Spotify for giving as much as 70 percent of revenues to labels, and just pennies to the artists, there are many ways musicians and educators can leverage the digital space to share their art and make money.

Music composer and instructor, Dr. David Mitchell is teaming with marketing leader, Jennifer Jones, to share tips on how the online space can be used to create brand awareness for musicians and drive tangible income. 

The duo will present "How to Promote Your Music Online: A Guide to Social Media for the Musicians" at the College of Music Society's Southern Chapter Conference on February 20, 2015 at 1:30 PM at the Mississippi University for Women in Poindexter 211.

And, it's not just musicians who can benefit from harnessing the power of digital and social media. Producers and professors can raise their own profiles through content sharing online to demonstrate their knowledge, experience and leadership positions.

"Everyone has a different goal when it comes to creating music," said Dr. Mitchell. "Some people are trying to make a profit. Some are trying to reach a specific audience. Some are trying to brand themselves as an artist or an educator and thought leader. Social media lets you do all of it and we look forward to showing the CMS audience how."

A recent composition for guitar and piano, "Lake Avondale, A Beautiful Day" by Dr. Mitchell will also be performed at the conference by Jay Kacherski, guitar, Lina Morita, piano. The piece recently premiered at the Spectrum in New York City by the Samadi-Keene duo.

For more information go to:

VIDEO: Steel Panther's Satchel on Using Classical-Style Arpeggios...

Steel Panther's "Satchel" runs through another hilarious Guitar World Video Lesson on the Steel Panther song, “Weenie Ride,” from their 2012 album, Balls Out. 

“Weenie Ride” is built around a piano part in the key of A minor. There is, of course, a bitchin’ guitar solo in the song, which Satchel shows in the video lesson. A note about the guitar tuning: Satchel always tunes down one half step. But when he recorded “Weenie Ride,” he played the solo in standard-tuning.

Micro Lesson 066: "C Minor" Funk Scratch Groove

Welcome to...
"Micro-Lesson 066" 

This Micro Lesson uses the, "C Minor," harmony to create a Funk Groove. 

The rhythm lesson example works through a funk rhythmic groove that focuses upon scratch rhythms. 

Funk grooves are some of the most demanding when it comes to rhythmic ability for the guitarist. When scratches are employed during a busy sixteenth-note guitar part the demand increases drastically. 

The trick to developing funk groove playing is that of learning the parts measure by measure. This is due to the similarity of the measures. 

Once a rhythm is developed in one bar, the other measures will generally follow quickly. In the example, the groove uses three string triads located on the upper three and mid-three strings. 

The chords are all from the key of, "C Minor." Enjoy!

Micro Lesson 066: "C Minor" Funk Scratch Groove

Micro Lesson 065: "E Minor" Rock Arpeggio Riff

Welcome to...
"Micro-Lesson 065" 

This Micro Lesson uses the, "E Minor," scale to create a Rock Arpeggio Riff. 

This Minor Rock Riff uses arpeggios across several chords from the harmony of the key of "E Natural Minor."

The arpeggios function in a rhythm of steady eighth notes throughout the four measures of this riff. The overall speed of this riff is overly fast, so the degree of technique required to perform this phrase is fairly intermediate. 

Take your time working through each measure and be sure to commit the riff to memory before increasing your speed. Enjoy!

Micro Lesson 065: "E Minor" Rock Arpeggio Riff

Science Proves: People Sing Better in the Shower!

If you terrify the crowd at karaoke because your rendition of "Don't Stop Believin'" cracks glass, there's hope yet — and it's in your shower. 

Science has proven once and for all that singing in the shower is fun for a reason: Your voice sounds markedly better thanks to the unique acoustics of that ceramic box.

Think of your shower as your own personal sound booth. The secret is in the construction. Most showers are made with ceramic tiles, which absorb next to no sound. And unless you're a guest on MTV Cribs, your shower is probably pretty small. When your voice isn't absorbed, it bounces around quite a bit, thanks to the close proximity of the ceramic shower walls. All that back-and-forth adds up, giving your voice more power and volume.

Because showers aren't usually symmetrical cubes, some of those waves travel farther than others. That, along with the fact that ceramic doesn't absorb sound well, gives your singing the effect of being stretched out, or reverberated, meaning your voice "hangs" in the air longer than usual, giving it an embellished, extra-rich sound.

Reverb also helps to even out your pitch, which is great for those of us who aren't Mariah Carey. Your voice tends to get blurry as it reverberates off many surfaces, so even if you don't quite hit the exact note, it sounds closer than it would outside the shower.

Adding to their sonic talents, showers even act as resonators, which means they enhance certain frequencies to deepen sound and enhance bass because of their cavity structure.

Think of it like this: If you plucked a string with 100 Hz — which is about average for a bass guitar — it would vibrate 100 times per second. Because your shower's acoustics make your voice's sound waves vibrate at about 100 times per second, your voice sounds deeper and more resonant than it actually is, around 150 Hz, on average. Apparently it really is all about dat bass.

So, go take a shower and sing your heart out. Your roommate will thank you for not being an embarrassment at karaoke instead.

Micro Lesson 064: "B Minor" Funky /Blues Lick

Welcome to...
"Micro-Lesson 064" 

This Micro Lesson uses the, "B Blues," scale to create a funky /Bluesy guitar lick. 

The lick begins at the second string's 12th fret, "B," note and quickly runs through a series of mixed sixteenth-notes, as well as, thirty-second notes. 

The effect of all of these fast duration scale tones makes for a quick beginning to the line. However, in the second half of the lick there's several staggered sixteenth's, (with sixteenth-note rests in between), creating a choppy ending to the line. 

Overall, this short two-bar, "Minor Tonality," phrase is fun to play at any speed, but really takes on an interesting feel at faster tempos. Enjoy!

Micro Lesson 064: "B Minor" Funky /Blues Lick

Steve Vai Announces Vai Academy 2015: 'All About the Guitar'

Dreamcatcher Events and Steve Vai have announced Vai Academy 2015: "All About the Guitar," a four-day guitar-centric event featuring Vai, Eric Johnson, Sonny Landreth and several other guests.

It'll take place August 2 to 6 at the Arrabelle at Vail Square in Vail, Colorado.

As a bonus, we happen to have an exclusive written message from Vai. You can check it out below, plus there's also a video at the bottom of this page!

Here's his complete written introduction to Vai Academy 2015:

"If you were with us during the inaugural run in 2014, glad to see you again! If this is going to be your first year, I wanted to take this opportunity to give you the rundown."

“There were a few things we all loved about 2014. Every day offered an open forum and atmosphere for questions and answers during clinics and classes, and then at night we all jammed together."

"One of the wonderful things about Vai Academy is I get the opportunity to jam on stage with literally every camper. If you’re there, you’re jamming with me at some point! Once again, it’s all ages and skill levels. Whether you just picked up your first guitar for your 10th birthday or you’ve been playing for 40 years (since your 10th birthday), we want you here, plugged in and ready to play."

“This year, our master classes will be taught by two guitar giants—Eric Johnson and Sonny Landreth. You’ll have the opportunity to receive special attention from them. Those are the similar elements to last year."

“One of the main goals of Vai Academy is to do something different each year. Last year, our theme was Song Evolution. This year, it’s 'All About the Guitar'—literally."

“So besides all of the jamming, we’re going to focus on the actual instrument. It’s something I’ve always wanted to do, but it’s even eluded me. We’ll be highlighting aspects of the guitar that even seasoned players are relatively unaware of. However, we all should be aware of them."

"This includes everything from how guitars are built, how different body shapes create tones, how different woods sound, how neck dimensions affect sound, how fret-boards are built, how to properly string a guitar, how to set intonation and so much more."

“This was my train of thought: You have an attraction to the instrument. You pick it up. You start playing it. You can find your groove and your notes, but you might not really understand the tiny nuances and idiosyncrasies of the guitar itself. That’s what we’re going to show you."

“In keeping with this theme, we’ll have some of the world’s best luthiers and foremost experts teaching classes about every nuance of our favorite instrument. Ibanez is filming a video of a guitar built from scratch, and you’ll get to see that axe up close and personal."

“So, in between all of that riffing on stage, learning your instrument inside and out, and basking in the glory that is summer in Vail (or VAI-L), you’ll leave with some lifelong new friends. That’s what I love about this."

“I’m here to have a good time, share some knowledge, and learn a few things. I hope you’re there too—with your guitar of course!"

For more information, check out the video below and visit www.viacademy.com. Registration begins January 27.

Micro Lesson 063: "G Dorian" Latin Rock Riff

Welcome to...
"Micro-Lesson 063" 

This Micro Lesson Works out a riff in "G Dorian" mode that takes on a style of Latin Rock. 

The Santana-ish sounds of this riff apply Minor key flavor through the second mode of the parent major scale key of "F Major." 

The riff begins by playing through the chord tones of "G Minor," highlighting the note of "E." This note appears in bar two within the "C9," chord. Normally, in the standard "G Natural Minor" harmony we would find an "Eb" tone. This raised 6th degree gives us the sound of "Dorian Mode." The riff uses the unique "E natural" tone once again in bar four. 

Overall, the riff is a relatively easy pattern to learn and can be developed to play at a nice moderate tempo, (while still sounding good at any performance tempo). Enjoy!

Micro Lesson 063: "G Dorian" Latin Rock Riff

What to Do About Guitar Pick-up "Hum and Buzz"

One of the most popular questions students tend to ask about their electric guitars is why their pickups hum and buzz through the amp...

There are generally two sides to this question. One side is how come their pickups will buzz, but then go quiet when they turn to a certain angle. Another side to this question is how come their amp will be quiet at one moment, yet at another moment the amp will begin to hum and generate buzz seemingly out of nowhere.

There are several possible answers and sides to both of these questions. But, the overall reason for why we get hum and buzz through our amps has to do with, "electromagnetic fields."

Guitar Pickups, (and other devices, such as, fan motors), will amplify electromagnetic fields coming from other appliances along the electrical line that your amp is plugged into. They also amplify any power fluctuations from your electric companies distribution transformer, (the unit somewhere near to your home that steps down the power from your neighborhood power sub-station).

The important thing to grasp is that the electrical power coming from the plugs located in your house is not perfect, nor is it generally very clean. That is why companies like Furman make power conditioners like the, "Furman PL PLUS C," for recording studios and for live venues.

The power found in a typical house plug can be affected in many different ways. Even something seemingly harmless, like running a vacuum in another room of the house, can create an annoying hiss or buzzing sound from your amp. And so, power conditioners can make a big difference in eliminating pops and clicks from; heat pumps, refrigerators and fan motors.

These power issues can be a big problem depending upon where you live and how clean the power in your neighborhood is. For example, if you play out a lot, you'll notice that some venues will cause your amp to start to hum when turned up loud, but in other places this won't happen.

Years ago, I thought all of this was just something that speakers and amps did. However, after buying a power conditioner I found the noise greatly diminish in many venues.

In clubs, halls or jam spaces the cleanliness of the power will be different. Sometimes power conditioners will do something, and other times they won't. This is because of the very nature of the lines of force in a magnetic field.

Think of it like this. The pickups in a guitar are the most quiet when they are "in line" with the external magnetic field. However, when they become 'out of line' they will start to hum. The result is manipulated like this; if you face one way, your guitar will be quiet. But, as you start to turn another way, the hum will start to amplify.

Unshielded single coil pickups are by far the worst for this issue. And, the problem concerning these external magnetic fields only compounds if you switch your amp into the over-drive channel. Shielding can help protect your electronics in some circumstances. But, the best solution for the most quiet sounding guitar is to use hum-bucking, (double-coil), pickups.

Now, that said about the guitar and it's pickups, we still haven't fully addressed the issue of dirty power. We can have a guitar that is well shielded running hum-bucking pickups, but what about that vacuum across the hallway, or that neighbor who's building a new garage and is using a high-power skill saw? We'll still have an issue with powerful electromagnetic fields generated along our electrical path. They are out of our control and they will make it to our amps and to our guitars.

There are different directions we can take that can sometimes help us with this "Dirty Power" issue. Unfortunately, the simple truth is that getting 100% clean power to an amp, (and through to your guitar), can be incredibly difficult. And, the problem is only made more complicated - and outside of your control - when you're out on a gig.

The bottom line is that the most control that you'll have over your power will always be within your home studio setting. Through the use of; Isolated Power Systems, Isolated Grounds, Voltage Regulators, Battery Back-ups, and Power Conditioners you should be able to maintain a fairly clean power source when you need it most, (when making your home recordings).

A few important points to always consider about your power set-up are:

- An automatic step up system for low voltage and step down high voltage. This will always maintain levels that are safe for your music equipment.

- A device to shield your hardware from damage by providing both Lightning and Surge Protection.

- EMI/RFI filters to prevent line noise from corrupting your system.

- A device to monitor and balance input voltages. This will protect your system from anything that might cause the output voltage to fall outside of the normal correction band.

- A multi-stage device that incorporates three stages of conditioning using the following components. 
1. Low impedance isolation transformer (toroid).
2. High quality AC noise filters
3. Surge diverter - diverts all noise to ground.

While it may not be possible to maintain absolutely perfect /clean power 24 hrs. a day, at your home studio or out in the club scene, we can work toward laying the best possible foundation for a power environment that should allow us to perform and record without a lot of unwanted, "buzz /hum /pops or hiss."

Unfortunately, it is important to keep in mind that the chances of completely removing all of the line hum and buzz will be next to impossible. Things like isolating sound boards from amplifiers and using power conditioners will never be sufficient to eliminate all of the ground loop hum in the system.

Electromagnetic hum is a larger problem that requires tracking down where everything in the system is plugged in, (if live, that means the stuff on the stage that is far away from the sound room). This also includes even far flung sources of interference such as; cable tv, phone lines, motors, computers, projectors, etc.

It sure would be super nice if some company in the electronics world could build a reasonably priced unit that could at least detect if not entirely eliminate 60 Hz hum, rather than pass it straight through. Oh well, maybe one day!

I hope you will be able to use some of this information in this post to make an informed decision for cleaner /better power in your guitar study and work environments.

Thank you for reading this week's Blogger article.

All the best - Andrew Wasson

Micro Lesson 062: "A Phrygian" Minor Key Lick

Welcome to...
"Micro-Lesson 062" 

This Micro Lesson explores a Modal Lick in the key of, "A Phrygian." 

This fast sixteenth-note modal guitar lick is in the minor key center. The mode for this lick encompasses "Phrygian" mode. 

Phrygian mode is generated from this lick through the pattern of performing both from and resolving to the 3rd scale tone of the "F Major Scale." 

Since the third tone of the major scale produces the Phrygian mode, we can focus upon the "A" tone from within the key of, "F major," and establish it as our focal point. 

When the line we produce starts and ends upon that "A" tone, (yet uses only those notes found from the key of "F Major,") we generate the Phrygian sound. 

Pay careful attention to the fret-board fingering you decide to use and how the pick-hand will execute the picking pattern when building the licks speed. Enjoy!

Micro Lesson 062: "A Phrygian" Minor Key Lick

Peavey Introduces 50th Anniversary Commemorative Guitar Amplifiers

Courtesy of Guitar World

For 2015 only, Peavey celebrates its golden anniversary with the release of two limited-edition amplifiers, the 50th anniversary commemorative 6505 + head and the 50th anniversary commemorative Classic 30 112 combo.

The 50th anniversary 6505 + head features specifications players know and want, and is decked out in a gold chassis fitting for the occasion.

Features include:

• 120 Watts
• Preamp: 6 - 12AX7s
• Power amp: 4 - 6L6s
• Footswitchable lead/rhythm channels
• Effects loop
• 3-band EQ
• Resonance and presence controls
• 4, 8, or 16 Ohms

Revered by blues, country and rock players alike, the 50th anniversary Classic 30 112 combo offers the same specifications as the Classic tweed model, but presents itself with striking black tolex and a gold chassis.

Features include:

• Genuine Spring Reverb with level control
• Pre- and post-gain controls on lead channel
• External speaker capability
• Footswitches optional
• 30 Watts (rms) into 16 or 8 Ohms
• 2-channel preamp
• Footswitch selectable channel switching, reverb and boost
• Four EL84s and three 12AX7s
• 12 inch Blue Marvel speaker
• Effects loop

Both models feature a 50th anniversary commemorative emblem, and include a certificate of authenticity signed by Hartley Peavey. Models are produced in limited quantities, and are only available in 2015.

For more information, visit peavey.com.

Micro Lesson 061: "A Minor" Double-Stop Riff

Welcome to...
"Micro-Lesson 061" 

This Micro Lesson explores a Double-stop Riff in the key of, "A Minor." 

This Micro Lesson covers an interesting Two-Note chord riff in, "A Minor." Guitarists generally refer to two-note chords as, "Double-Stops." These ideas operate around the use of two notes from the bigger, (more complete), chord of three-notes. 

If a power-chord is not the focus of the phrase, (or entire progression), the other Double-Stop chords will generally use the root and the third. This approach is what we find in Micro-Lesson 61. 

The harmony established by this double-stop phrase quickly moves through the small two-note double-stops, "A minor," "B minor," and, "G major" in the first two measures. An, "F major," to, "C major," wraps up the phrase, finally resolving on a, "G" chord. 

Take time working through measures three and four. The scale lines can be tricky. Use a metronome to build your speed. Enjoy!

Micro Lesson 061: "A Minor" Double-Stop Riff