Can Anyone Successfully Compose Music?


No... Not everyone has the ability to compose music, and your genes could explain why...

Creativity is hard trait to explain - particularly when it comes to trying to figure out how much of it is determined by our environment, and how much is passed down by our parents. Now research has shown that up to 30 percent of a musician's ability to compose and arrange music can be explained by genes - suggesting that the skills can, to a certain extent, be inherited.

That's great news for everyone with musically gifted parents, and still good news for everyone else, because the study suggests that 70 percent of composition talent is still in our hands. But what's even more interesting is the research also isolated the genes involved in these skills, and discovered a specific biological pathway that could allow some people to write music like a second language, while the rest of us can barely hum a theme song.

To be clear, the study had its limitations - namely the fact that it only involved just under 300 individuals in Finland, who all self-reported their composition abilities (which is just asking for exaggeration).

But the chromosome regions that appeared to be linked to the ability to compose and arrange music are already known to be associated with musical appreciation and creativity, and they offer a solid starting point from which to study the biological basis of the skills further.

Interestingly, some of the genes associated with musical composition skills have also been implicated in mental health problems, adding further evidence to the ongoing debate over whether creativity and psychological conditions go hand-in-hand.

"We pinpointed regions including genes and alleles with neuropsychiatric implications," the researchers from the University of Helsinki in Finland report in PLOS ONE. "In spite of the deleterious effects on the human mind, neuropsychiatric disorders have persisted in evolution suggesting that they perhaps also carry advantageous effects such as creativity."

But let's take a step back to the research itself. The study was inspired by a questionnaire that revealed that younger generations of musically trained individuals in Finland were more likely to be able to compose or improvise music - rather than just play it - than the older generations.

To try to figure out where this difference was coming from, the researchers analyzed the genomes of almost 300 musically educated individuals, half of whom claimed to be able to compose music. The team was looking for patterns between genes and certain musical traits. 

They found that genes on chromosome 4 were linked to the ability to compose music - and they were found in a region that contains other genes that are associated with musical abilities, including the SNCA gene, which has been shown to activate after people listen to or perform music.

That's interesting, but how could those genes affect the way our brain can perceive and manipulate music? The researchers took things a step further, and were able to link musical composition to a molecular pathway known as the cerebellar long-term depression (LTD) pathway - which relates to memory and learning, and isn't actually involved in depression, despite its name.

This pathway occurs in the cerebellum, a region that's previously been shown to light up when someone is improvising or using working memory for rhythm. "These results suggest that molecular pathways linked to memory and learning via LTD affect music-related creative behavior," the researchers write.

As we said before, the study definitely has its limitations, but it also opens up a new biological point of view from which to study creativity - and the results could eventually help us understand more about why our brains work the way they do, which is something that humanity is always fascinated by.

The research has been published in PLOS ONE.

Micro Lesson 290: "D Minor" Pop-Rock Riff

Welcome to... "Micro-Lesson 290"

This Micro-Lesson explores a Pop-Rock style guitar riff in the key of "D Minor." 

The riff applies mostly power chords which are mixed against single-note-line runs. The first measure sets up the key center with a, "D Power-Chord," (D5), moving through to an "A5," and finally to a two-note "F Major" interval. 

The second measure brings in a single-tone joining riff using the notes of the, "D Natural Minor" scale. This single-note line moves rapidly through the scale tones with a sixteenth-note triplet at it's core. 

In the third measure, the initial power-chord riff we started with (back in measure one) returns with a fresh ending into a "Bb5." This takes us into the fourth measure where we wrap things up into a unique phrase that employs more, "D Minor," scale tones and allows for the riff to either repeat or make a break through the riff and create a looped phrase. 

The overall technique involved with this riff is minimal. As long as the basic power-chord concept is manageable for a guitarist, then the riff should be able to be brought up to speed easily. Take your time learning the single-note licks. They do involve some faster playing. Work with a clean sound on your amp at first, then switch on the amps distortion /overdrive. Enjoy!

Micro Lesson 290: "D Minor" Pop-Rock Riff

Guitar Chord Picking Patterns

GuitarBlog: Guitar Chord Picking Patterns...

This weeks GuitarBlog runs through, "Guitar Chord Picking Patterns." 

When we pick through chords, (using a plectrum), applying a unique picking pattern, we have the opportunity for creating some really cool sounding guitar parts. The lines that can be invented are somewhat similar sounding to a finger-style guitar part. But, the attacks have more punch and greater definition. 

Chord picking patterns are strong and can hold their own when it comes to combined harmony and melody concepts. In the lesson video, I cover several examples to help get you started. But, what is most important is to work on inventing a good amount of your own original patterns. Over time, they will become a big part of your everyday playing technique. Enjoy the lesson!

Guitar Chord Picking Patterns

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5 Apps to Help You Get Better at Music...

Courtesy of Jonathan Hack

The top five choices for iPhone and iPad music-education apps, beginner to expert...

If you’re like me, you’re always working to improve your craft. That means staying on top of new technology and gear, allowing yourself to be influenced by incredible artists, and continuously learning new things.

This can translate to large investments, and let’s be honest – as musicians, there isn’t always positive cash flow. I don’t know too many people who can afford $100 per week for private lessons or thousands for online courses.

Instead, many of us have turned to the app store as our one-stop learning hub. From the simplest in theory to polyrhythms, there’s an app for that.

1. Sight Reader (Free)
I’m often surprised by the number of musicians who can’t read music and choose not to learn. Now I know that you’ll argue that many of the greats didn’t read, but why limit yourself? Learning to sight read cuts down on the time it takes to learn songs and makes you more marketable for things like last-minute gigs, pit and studio jobs, and accompanying singers. Android equivalent: Music Tutor Sight Read

2. Bionic Ears Basic (Free)
This handy, little peach is excellent for tuning up the old auditory organs. Here’s how it works: the app plays a random interval. You then try to match it on your instrument of choice. If you do so correctly, it’ll fire another interval your way. Now that’s entertainment. Android equivalent: Functional Ear Trainer

3. Guitar World Lessons (Free)
This app breaks down the guitar layout and offers a boatload of tabs and video lessons. Android equivalent: Ultimate Guitar ($3.50).

4. Piano 3D (Free)
What better way to make learning fun than gamification? I’m embarrassed to admit it, but I was a huge fan of Guitar Hero when it first came out. I even hosted it at a bar. Guitar Hero had no musical benefits – only finger cramping side effects – but Piano 3D has borrowed the concept and applied it to playing a real piano. Pretty damn cool.
Android equivalent: None directly related - close comparison: Yousician Learn Piano 

5. PolyRhythym ($1.39)
I assume you already have a metronome installed on your flip phone from 1995, but perhaps you’re in search of more complex rhythms. This beat box of sorts seamlessly overlays rhythmic patters and will have you thinking in all the complexities of Euler or Newton. Android equivalent: None directly related

I implore you to take your musicianship to the next level. Maybe that means picking up an instrument you’ve never tried before, or learning to pick an augmented seventh out of a crowd. Whatever your poison, you can rest assured that the latest advances in music-ed tech are doing right by you!

Jonathan Hack is a Brooklyn resident, musician, writer, and ping pong aficionado. His career in the theatre has spanned acting, music direction, production, carpentry, and more. As a marketer, he has worked with major brands in music and fashion. He is a proud member of AEA and NATS.

Top 3 Tips for YouTube Musicians...

Courtesy of Hugh McIntyre

Every musician needs to have a presence on YouTube, and they need to do it right.

By now, every musician out there – whether just getting started or something of a veteran – should be aware that YouTube is an incredibly important platform to anybody in the music space. It’s where millions of people go every day to listen to music, to learn about their instrument, and for entertainment. 

One band that's proven that they know what they're doing when it comes to YouTube is Boyce Avenue. The band isn’t signed to a major label, they've never charted a major hit, and yet they're one of the most popular channels on the site. The group has surpassed two billion – yes, billion with a B – views, and they're still going strong.

What makes them so successful on YouTube if they aren’t superstars? Those are the types of numbers that one would expect from someone like BeyoncĂ© or Katy Perry, but not an unsigned, DIY band. I spoke with Boyce frontman Daniel Manzano recently, and he shared three important pieces of advice for anybody, musician or otherwise, who's looking to be successful on YouTube.

1. You have to be honest
This sounds like a no-brainer and kind of silly, but it’s critical – not just for success in terms of views and ad revenue, but for building a serious, permanent relationship with your fans. The viewer isn’t stupid, and Manzano warned that people watching at home will "see through it" if you’re dishonest in your posts.

He calls YouTube "a platform that values and puts a premium on people who are being themselves and being honest." Part of being honest is being yourself. Don’t try to be something you’re not, as people won’t believe it after a while. Manzano put it bluntly and simply, saying, "Don't be afraid to just be yourself and be honest, or you really won't work."

2. It's way more work than you might think
For those thinking that it’s only YouTube, and that creating a good amount of quality content will be a breeze, be warned: the experts say the opposite. "There's a lot of work that goes behind running a channel and doing a lot of it yourself," Manzano says.

If you were thinking that you might want to outsource some of the work to make your load lighter, think again. "You have to do a lot of stuff yourself," he stated. "The moment you don't do a lot of it yourself, the fans can perceive that it's become more run by the machine."

Everything you’re going to do connected to your musical career is going to require a lot of hard work, and YouTube is no exception. Don’t skimp and don’t ignore your obligations, because while it may take a long time and a lot of effort to build up a successful profile page, it can all disappear fairly quickly.

3. Consistency is key
This is certainly an important factor for creating a successful channel on YouTube, and in more ways than one. Not only do videos need to go up regularly and often, (it's best to have videos posted on the sames days every week), but you also need to be extremely consistent in terms of what you project on the site.

"Find who you are, find your voice, and stick with it," the band’s leader told me. "People come and go, but for the most part, people like to feel comfortable knowing that they're going to get what they expect and that you're going to be the same person from week to week."

Don’t switch up your personality, and don’t mess around with the format of your videos too much. You can create different kinds of clips, but your fans should know what they're about to watch as they click it.

Also, don’t let a lot of time pass between uploads, or you run the risk of people forgetting about you and your channel. If you post once a week, keep that streak going! Do your best not to miss your weekly uploading deadlines, or if you’re going to have to skip some days or weeks, at least let your fans know. How often isn’t as important as making sure that it’s regularly, and that your fans know that YOU can be counted on.

Check out this video by Boyce Avenue below:

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

Micro Lesson 289: "G Major" New Age Chord-Riff

Welcome to... "Micro-Lesson 289"

This Micro Lesson works through a dreamy New-Age chord progression in the key of, "G Major." 

New Age guitar instrumental music is most famous for it's open ringing chords with sounds of; rain-drops, frogs, crickets and streams flowing in the background. The chord changes are often fairly straight-forward in this style and will often function in the major keys. The use of extended, suspended and added chord tones will create what people will call a, "Dreamy New Age" effect. 

In this Micro-Lesson the focus is placed upon the use of open string chord ideas ringing in behind of the harmonies of; suspended, major 6, and add2 chord types. 

In measure one, the  "V-chord" of "D" appears with a suspended 2nd. It gets highlighted with the open 4th and 1st strings. In measure two, the IV-chord of "C Major 6th" appears with another application of the open 1st string. Measure three, brings in the keys "Tonic Chord" of "G Major. The dreamy open effect is presented by adding a 2nd degree on the "G Major" chord (A note). The open string effect is maintained by way of an open 4th string "D." 

The progression wraps-up by bringing back the IV-chord again. This time the "C Major" chord is not appearing with it's proper (Major) quality. Instead, it is suspended with a, "sus2," idea. The open-string effect remains by way of an "open 4th and 3rd" string. 

When it comes to the playing of this chord riff, it should be a fairly straight-forward progression to learn and develop in a short time. Some of the stretches may be somewhat challenging, but with study and practice the shapes will come together over time. I suggest using folk-fingerstyle technique to perform the chord arpeggios. Enjoy!

Micro Lesson 289: "G Major" New Age Chord-Riff

Why the Musicians Brain is so Unique...

Courtesy of Max Monahan

Science has proven that the average brain of a musician has considerable differences when compared the brain of an individual that doesn't play music! 

...and despite what your extended family says, the differences are all very positive! 

Playing and listening to music exercises many parts of the brain that we use every day including; motor skills, visual processing, auditory processing, and emotional capacity. Read on to learn about all of the ways that music helps your brain stay in shape.

Early development
Music stimulates and exercises the brain. Modern neuroscience has been able to monitor brain activity in real time and has detected the myriad of activity that transpires when a musicians play their instruments. This activity builds up connections between neurotransmitters necessary for all kinds of functions. While this activity is effective at any age, studies have shown that the earlier a child starts playing music, the better.

So much is happening in the mind of a developing young child. For example, between the ages of two and nine is the time when a child breaks through with language. A mind stimulated with music during this time will have a better grasp of language, which will give kids the tools to more clearly articulate their ideas, reach their potential, and guide them to a more successful life.

Become Fully Engaged in Music
Different findings have offered differing opinions on the matter, but some studies aim to debunk the myth that just listening to music will develop a child's brain. They state that if a child sits in a music class like they're watching paint dry, nothing is going to happen. For results to be seen, the youth must be engaged by reading, playing, and putting effort into understanding the music.

Other researches claim that listening to music is better then not listening at all, which is absolutely true. Still, it's understandable where this argument comes from, as it's difficult for science to quantify just how, "hard," someone is listening, and the results from actually playing music are consistently seen in the brain on a much larger scale.

What's happening in the brain
The reason why it's undeniable how playing music has such a significant impact over just listening, or not playing at all, is because playing music involves virtually every part of the brain at once. It involves the parts responsible for auditory, visual, and motor functionality. Another vivid picture of just how stimulating music can be on the brain is how it works the left and right hemispheres in perfect harmony (hah). By uniting the functions of our analytic brain with our creative brain, we maximize its efficiency.

The deep-rooted benefits of music on our brain don't stop there. By analyzing all the intricacies of a piece of music, such as its artistic qualities, emotional content, and message, music ends up working even more brain functions. This means that the musical brain ends up displaying superiority in complex functions including but not limited to socially oriented, executive, and analytic functions.

Superior Capacity for Memory
Musicians show a superior capacity to store memories. With heightened aptitudes for all these aspects of life, musicians are able to attach vivid sensory tags to their memories involving emotion, context, sounds, or just the concept of the memory. This drastically heightens the learning curve for the musically impacted brain.

If we want to get into the real nitty-gritty of these happenings, it all comes down to increases in grey matter seen in those who have studied music. This correlates to the size and area of the nerve cells in the cerebral cortex. Basically, it's all about connections, just like the music industry! The more connections you build, the more things happen, the more you end up getting done.

So are you a genius because you play the drums, or have you only been able to get by because fate handed you a trumpet in the fourth grade? Whatever relationship with music may be, it will do nothing but benefit your cerebral health, so keep it up.

Max Monahan is a bassist and a writer living in Los Angeles. He spends his time working for an audio licensing website and shredding sweet bass riffs.

Micro Lesson 288: "D Minor" Soul /R&B Groove

Welcome to... "Micro-Lesson 288"

This Micro Lesson covers a Soul /R and B groove in the key of, "D Minor." 

The progression uses the chords built off of the keys; IV-chord (G Minor), the III-chord (F Major), and the Tonic Chord of the key, (D Minor). 

The extension of an, "11th," is applied on the Tonic and IV-chord. In measure one, the "G Minor" chord starts off the groove with the 11th extension applied upon the up-beat of the count of, "two." A single-note line wraps-up the measure bringing us up into measure two. Here, the "F maj7" chord appears first thing in measure two, along with the Tonic chord of, "Dm7." Another ending phrase, (this time a double-stop idea), appears at the up-beat of the count of, "four," to bring us into measure three. 

Measure three, establishes a return to the phrase applied in measure one off of the, "G Minor." Different passing tones are however applied at the end of this bar to bring in an arpeggio idea based off of the Tonic Chord. The progression is set-up so that it can either loop around, or possibly wrap-up by way of ending on the Tonic. 

The right-hand technique of this groove could be performed either Hybrid-picked, or by using finger-plucking. In the recordings made for this lesson, the groove was recorded each time using finger-picking. A plucking style in respect to "Folk-Fingerpicking" was applied, (this is the use of the; thumb, index and middle fingers only). Enjoy!

Micro Lesson 288: "D Minor" Soul /R and B Groove

7 Tips How Street Performers Make $Big Money$

Courtesy of Christopher DeArcangelis

Buskers who truly entertain their crowds and choose their locations wisely can go home with some serious money in their pockets.

Busking, or street performance, is a tradition that dates back to antiquity and is socially accepted in many different cities and locations around the world.

Many buskers who take their jobs seriously work out a highly rehearsed and choreographed routine, not unlike professional stage musicians. That’s because busking as a musician is more than a great way to practice your ability to perform for a crowd – it can also be a great way to make money.

Making money busking isn’t as easy as just showing up with your acoustic guitar, however. If you really want to make busking a worthwhile experience for you and your audience, try these seven tips...

1. Choose your instrument wisely
The classic stereotype of a busker is someone who grabs an acoustic guitar and finds a street corner and starts belting it out. That isn’t a bad way to get started, but the acoustic guitar is hardly the best instrument for busking. Louder instruments make a better impact in crowded places, especially drumming and electronic instruments. Take time to get your performance routine down so that you look effortless while you’re playing your instrument. Remember, it's important to put on a show. Taking care of your instrument is also crucial, as is purchasing any upgrades you might need to sound loud and proud.

2. Always dress the part
After you’re noticed for your music, your appearance will be the next thing you're judged on. When it comes to street performance, you want to keep people entertained – and part of that means dressing well. You shouldn’t look like you live in a cardboard box, but you also shouldn’t look like you just stepped out of your penthouse suite. Find a look that keeps you comfortable for several hours while engaging people without offending them. Basically, look cool.

3. Make sure you're being heard
The din of the crowd can easily drown out the loudest singing and acoustic instruments, so when in doubt, it's important to be loud. Being loud not only allows people to hear you, but it makes you come off as a confident performer – as someone who is demanding to be heard. This makes a strong impression on people who might want to donate some money to your cause. It also helps shake people out of their personal stupor or deep conversations as they walk down the street.

4. Play songs that your target audience is familiar with
If you really want to make money as a street performer, the most important rule is to play to your crowd. The people who will be walking by you are the people you will be performing to, so you need to play music that will make them want to give you money. For most areas, this will be upbeat and familiar songs. This doesn’t have to mean corny classics, but try to stick to songs that your average music fan will recognize. Deep cuts by popular performers are also popular and fun to play. True fans who recognize those tracks will be impressed!

5. Make money collection as easy as possible
This might seem like a no-brainer, but you’d be amazed at how many street performers make it difficult for people to offer up gratuity. Poor placement or a small-size collection box will make it difficult for people to see if you're even asking for money. Make sure that your collection box is large and has prominent signage for your patrons to easily see it.

6. Learn a deep repertoire so you can play to any crowd
Depending on where and when you play, you'll be playing to different crowds. Street-smart performers who want to maximize the amount of money they make seek out crowds that match their repertoire. This can mean playing in certain neighborhoods or after certain sporting events. It also helps to be able to take requests. Depending on where you play, you'll want to have a certain repertoire or shtick prepared to for this. Recognizing what works will come with experience. It won’t take long before you see what people react to.

7. Choose your location wisely
Finding the perfect location to busk is an art unto itself. You’ll find that the best locations combine these certain factors together:

- The least amount of noise from bars or other musicians
- High traffic
- Large enough area to perform
- Unoccupied by other performers

Christopher DeArcangelis is an active musician and copywriter from Chicago. He writes songs, plays guitar, and sings vocals for the rock and roll band MAMA and is the founder of the creative agency Static Free Industries.

Micro Lesson 287: "G Major" Folk-Rock Riff

Welcome to... "Micro-Lesson 287"

This Micro Lesson runs through a, "Folk-Rock," finger-picking riff in the key of, "G Major." 

The riff begins on a "pick-up" (off of the up-beat of "2"), where these open-string pick-up notes bring in our first measure. Climbing through a popular sounding, 'open-string style' folk guitar run, we enter into the first bar of music with a, "G maj7," chord. 

The, "G and F#," tones play off of each on the 2nd string, with the open, "G and D," strings performed in the background. A return to the opening, 'pick-up note,' phrase occurs next. This phrase, (acting as a theme for the riff), brings in a similar appearance of the first bar of music once again. However, there is a different turnaround segment that comes in by use of, "G Major" and "E Minor," chords. 

These two chord harmonies set-up the final measures' appearance in where we find the key's V-chord of, "D Major." The "D Major," chord is inverted (in first inversion position), with it's 3rd chord tone in the bass, (F#). This allows for the riff to either be repeated, or to come to an end by landing on the tonic chord of, "G Major."

Standard, "Classical Guitar," style finger-picking is applied throughout the entire progression. The chord movements all easily support finger-picking technique. And, even though Hybrid picking could be used as an option, I would stress the use of finger-picking. For the record, I did not perform any of the takes recorded for this Micro-Lesson using Hybrid Picking. Strict finger-style (Classical method), was applied throughout. Have fun learning this riff - Enjoy!

Micro Lesson 287: "G Major" Folk-Rock Riff

5 Simple Arrangement Tricks

Courtesy of Christopher DeArcangelis

5 Simple But Effective Arrangement Tricks That’ll Bring a Track to Life...

Sometimes what makes a song really stand out isn’t so much the writing, per se – it’s the arrangement of the instruments on the recording or performance. The different combinations of sounds and varied dynamic ranges of certain instruments can change a clichĂ© chord progression or melody line into a stand-out moment. When used as a tool, arrangements become powerful ways to breathe life into a song that you may be having difficulty completing.

Whether you’re recording in the studio or performing live, try any of these arrangement tricks to get your songs out of a slump. The fun part about arrangements is that you can experiment with their basic concepts across any instrument. Eventually, you’ll hear what works best.

1. A simple percussion arrangement
Adding percussion to a track can make a very rudimentary song come to life. Case in point: "Magic Bus" by the Who. Featuring a Bo Diddley-esque single guitar chord rhythm and a shouted group vocal refrain, it’s the polyrhythmic playing of the wood block and shaker that gives the song a vibe of its own.

2. Harmony vocals
The sound of two voices singing is a great way to spice up a song’s arrangement. Some of the greatest songs of all time just wouldn’t be so great without the harmony singing that arguably makes the song stand out. One of the greatest arrangers of harmony vocals is without a doubt Jeffy Lynne, whose incredible use of harmony colors Electric Light Orchestra’s best tracks. He took harmony singing even further, texturizing the voices with modern studio effects and processing to create three-dimensional vocal soundscapes found in tracks like "Strange Magic."

3. Doubling up guitars
It makes total sense: the only thing that could sound better than one guitar is two! And the great thing about doubling up guitars is that there are no hard and fast rules. Whether guitars are in harmony or in unison, whether one guitar is bassy or trebly, any song's arrangement can be kicked into high gear with some doubled-up guitar parts.

One of the original and most unique double guitar lines can be found in the Thin Lizzy song "Wild One," which employs harmonized and staggered guitar lines to create a unique and powerful sound.

4. Punching up the bass
While guitars are often the focal point of a pop song, letting the bass guitar take the lead can add a new dimension to the same old songwriting. Whether it's literally taking the lead by playing the melodies of the progression, or just being played at a louder level that the other supporting instruments, punching up the bass will create a unique vibe every time.

A great example of tapping into the power of bass dynamics comes from the song "Soul Suckin Jerk" from Beck's Mellow Gold album. The song starts off with a slinky and funky bassline under a mid-tempo funk beat. About halfway through the track, the rhythm breaks down to the drums and the bass. Then suddenly, the bass gets cranked into grinding, heavy-metal territory without losing the funkiness of the beat. It's an awesome transition, giving it a feeling you wouldn't find often in a hip-hop and funk-influenced track like this.

5. The power of the breakdown
Without a doubt, one of the most classic ways to take a song to another level is to drop out a major instrument for a certain length of time, also known as the breakdown. So many songs have used this classic arrangement trick, yet it never fails to inspire an emotional response or a sense of drama.

One of the best breakdowns in pop music is the cow-bell breakdown in the Beastie Boys' "Hey Ladies." Lasting only a measure, it make a powerful transition and showcases why the breakdown is so integral to dance music and hip-hop.

Christopher DeArcangelis is an active musician and copywriter from Chicago. He writes songs, plays guitar, and sings vocals for the rock and roll band MAMA and is the founder of the creative agency Static Free Industries.

Micro Lesson 286: "F Minor" Flashy Speed-Lick

Welcome to... "Micro-Lesson 286"

Micro Lesson 286
This Micro Lesson works through a fast-paced speed lick in the key of "F Minor." 

The lick is made up of all 16th-notes and works it's way through the 8th position. Since it remains for the most part in one area, it should be fairly easy to build up to a very quick pace. 

Another bonus to learning this lick is the abundance of hammer-on's and pull-off's. When ever we attain speed using articulations like this, it will allow for an easier move to faster tempos as opposed to a lick that would require strict alternate picking technique. 

The start of this lick occurs up on the 1st guitar string at the 8th fret. There's a hammer-on /pull-off idea into the 2nd string. And, at the 2nd string, the idea builds through a double pull-off and heads to the 10th fret of the 4th string. 

This string is only used for a moment and then we head back to the 2nd string for another hammer-on /pull-off of the 8th and 10th frets. After that, we head directly back to the 3rd string for a pull-off of 10th to 8th frets. 

Next, is a quick move into the 4th string /10th fret with an immediate move back to the 3rd string for one more 8th to 10th fret pull-off. 

This brings us to the licks completion where the 4th string -  8th fret slides down to the minor third of the, "F Minor" tonic chord, (Ab). This tone (Ab) marks the resolution of the lick. 

Using this Minor Third, (Ab), a nice change from all of the more common resolutions into the most popular root resolution. 

Have fun memorizing this lick, and be sure to bring it up to speed. It's a great quick little flashy number that can work fantastic on any Minor chord! Enjoy!

Micro Lesson 286: "F Minor" Flashy Speed-Lick

Lead Guitar - Interval Soloing Patterns

GuitarBlog: Lead Guitar - Interval Soloing Patterns...

This week's GuitarBlog covers "Soloing Using Interval Patterns." 

Soloing using all types of different interval distances within a scale will cause the notes to blend into many different and many unique melodic sounds. When these new distances get applied as patterns from the scale they will give guitar players a number of really cool sounding guitar licks. 

One draw-back is that this idea doesn't generally produce very connected or very flowing melody lines. Instead, these interval based patterns will more often than not end up only sounding like choppy statements. Most often, they work much better as connecting phrases. They will even work well as flashy attention getting ideas during a solo. 

In the lesson video I demonstrate a number of examples of these "Interval Soloing Patterns." Enjoy the lesson!

Lead Guitar - Interval Soloing Patterns

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Micro Lesson 285: "Key of C" Blues Guitar Lick

Welcome to... "Micro-Lesson 285"

Micro-Lesson 285
This Micro Lesson explores a, "Key of C," Blues Guitar Lick using both, "C Minor Pentatonic," and the, "C Blues Scale." 

The lick travels ascending along between strings three to one. Beginning at the 4th position on the 2nd string, the lick starts with a bend /release idea that flows through the notes of the "C Minor Pentatonic." 

We get out of the 4th position by the end of measure one and shift up the neck into the 6th position using a slide. Here we begin working through more notes of the, "C Minor Pentatonic," in the 6th position. 

As we shift into the second measure the lick jumps yet one position further up the neck. Now, we're in the 8th position and we begin working on the, "C Blues Scale." This 8th position pattern of the, "C Blues," is one of the most well known and widely used scales on guitar. 

In this position, the lick uses a series of Hammer-ons and Pull-offs to rip out a quick 16th-note idea in this area. At the licks completion, we find a trill spinning between the 3rd strings 8th and 9th frets. The trill lasts for a, 'beat and a 1/2.' 

The final tone resolving the lick is the key's Tonic note of, "C." The line wraps up here and forms a solid connection to the tonal center of the idea. This lick should come together quickly for most players. The licks position shifts are all fairly easy to execute and fall nicely under the fingers. 

Overall, these scale patterns are some of the popular guitar scales used on the instrument for several musical styles, (including Blues). Enjoy!

Micro Lesson 285: "Key of C" Blues Guitar Lick

Breaking Free of the "Creative Rut"

Courtesy of Max Monahan

It happens to everyone sooner or later: you hit a wall. In a few weeks, you'll barely remember the whole ordeal, but when you're staring at a blank piece of sheet music wondering where to start, the situation can seem pretty daunting. 

Wouldn't it be great if you could just do away with creative ruts and maximize your creative potential? I can't quite promise that, but this article will help you get out of your creative ruts faster. So read up and don't waste another second.

1. Talk to an old teacher
You're stuck in a rut, lost, you don't know which way to go. A great way to push yourself forward is to give an old teacher a call. You never know what sage advice may pop up for your benefit that you may not have been ready for previously.

Who better to give you pointers than the person who (maybe to a huge degree, or maybe just a bit) helped get you to where you are today? Chances are, they've been where you are now, and maybe they'll tell you about a time that they were stuck in a rut, but moved past it!

2. Go to a museum
It's no secret that the link between visual art and music is a strong one. Bob Dylan, David Bowie, Miles Davis, and Joni Mitchell are just a few musical legends who are also accomplished painters. A few years before his death, Miles Davis professed that visual art is "like therapy for me, and it keeps my mind occupied with something when I'm not playing music." When you're blocked up with music, and all the sounds have become contrived, art through other senses (I suppose primarily visual art, although sometimes a great meal can do the trick) can keep the constructive ideas flowing in your head.

It provides an enormous contrast and is relaxing in its own distinct way – completely different from music. As a physical piece, it exists in a completely different relationship with time. There's no time frame, it doesn't stop or start like music, and it just sits there for your pleasure. So give your ears a break, go to a museum, and learn something new.

3. Make a subtle change in your life
It's no joke that diversity is the spice of life. If your routine has you doing the exact same mundane tasks day in and day out, void of any kind of variation or change, you might want to spice it up. Artists get their inspiration in all different ways. You could get it from nature, meditation, other people, or other forms of art. If you're beating yourself over the head with the same old things, you're never going to grow – even if those things are really comfortable for you.

This is where it can get tricky. You've found a good thing, and if it's not broke, don't fix it, right? Well, artists don't exactly follow the crowd. You need to step out and choose the path less taken if you want to do something extraordinary.

But here's the cool thing: I'm not telling you to quit your job; your change can be as small as you want. I mean, hey, if it's possible to torture people with a drop of water, you can freshen your life just by talking a different walk, talking to someone new, going to a different restaurant, anything! Mix it up, and you'll thank yourself.

4. Read a book
Somewhere out in the creative spectrum lies the art of the written word. Books are things that are right in front of you, completely in your control for you to intake however and for however long you want.

On the other hand, books are to be interpreted in the mind much like music. They tell a story for you to weave together in your mind, quite unlike paintings, which generally wear their identity at face value. A good book can connect you to fulfilling feelings, much like a movie, but a movie is like a hybrid of a painting and a book. The book is the truest way for a story to be enjoyed by the recipient. Pick one up, and find out what I mean.

5. Go back to your roots
Art, new restaurants, good people, good books. I'm giving you a pretty sweet to-do list here, but this last one might just be the most fun. When you're stuck in a rut and wondering why you're even trying to accomplish something that seems impossible, think back to why you first picked up your instrument. Even better, remember the music that first drew you to the instrument.

Plug your nose and dive face first into nostalgia. If you haven't done it in a while and you find something really poignant, it may strike a very serious chord with you. Just a snippet of a song can send you into a whole other era of your life, with feelings from 15 years ago all rushing back at once. It's different for everyone, but if that's not inspiration, I don't know what is.

Max Monahan is a bassist and a writer living in Los Angeles. He spends his time working for an audio licensing website and shredding sweet bass riffs.

Micro Lesson 284: "F Major" Soft-Rock Guitar Riff

Welcome to... "Micro-Lesson 284"

Micro Lesson 284
This Micro Lesson works through a Soft-Rock style chord progression in the key of, "F Major." 

The guitar riff begins in the first measure by striking an, "F Major 7th," chord played in the 5th position. The second half of the measure brings in the key's IV-chord of, "Bb Major." 

At this point the phrase pushes into the second measure by way of a 16th-note scale run under the harmony of a "C Major" chord. This measure wraps-up by blending the scale tones of, "F" and, "C" under the 3rd string open, "G." This two-note harmony carries into the third measure where we find a short, "sixth interval," riff under a harmony of, "Gm," and, "Am," chords. 

The phrase begins the final completion with a very brief 8th-note scale run into the turnaround measure. This turnaround is unique since it consists of a change in the riffs time signature. A single measure of 2/4 time is used to turn the progression around back to the top. It's a very smooth sound that isn't applied all too often in Rock and Pop music, but can be quite useful to create a smooth ending or provide the completion of a song segment. 

Most of this riff is quite basic in it's overall feel and level of technique. Plus, the working tempo is fairly slow. This should make things easier to develop up to tempo. Take your time and learn any unfamiliar chord shapes or scale lines prior to building speed. Otherwise, enjoy learning this chord riff.

Micro Lesson 284: "F Major" Soft-Rock Guitar Riff

5 Signs You Might Not Be a Pro Musician...

Courtesy of Christopher DeArcangelis

If you love music, there’s nothing better than being involved with it for the rest of your life while making a career out of it... right? 

Ask anyone who's made a career out of some aspect of the music business, and they'll no doubt tell you that they love what they do.

Like most other hobbies and occupations, a career in music isn’t for everyone. It takes a special kind of person to be able to successfully navigate the many different and separate facets of the music industry – and that has nothing to do with your musical skill. Even if you focus on the business side of things, there are many extraneous obligations that will challenge anyone to last long in the notoriously machine-like music industry.

If you’re struggling to carve out your own little niche in the music industry, it's important to be honest with yourself. The modern era of music requires much more of people than basic (or even advanced!) musical skill.

Listed below are five of the most important telltale signs that, while you might love creating and performing music, you might not be cut out for a full-time career in the music business.

1. You have a hard time promoting your work
Being a musician is arguably more about your marketing skills than your actual musicianship in the eyes of many people. That’s because a musician, especially at first, is almost solely responsible for his or her own successes in the modern age. With the record industry’s infrastructure going through massive changes, and the actual money it once had depleted, there's less support for upcoming artists than ever before.

More record labels are strictly relying on the actual musicians to lay the groundwork for their success, often waiting to get involved after they have proven to be money makers. This radical change from the old way of nurturing talent means musicians need to learn and become skilled at marketing themselves, or suffer obscurity.

2. You always feel stressed out about regular musician activities like performing, writing, and recording
Being a musician can sometimes seem cooler than it feels when you are doing it. That’s because it isn’t all just sold-out shows and partying – being a successful musician is a ton of work. In fact, you aren’t really doing it right if you aren’t working on being a musician whenever you’re awake. That’s because in addition to the marketing skills mentioned above, there's a never-ending list of reasons for a musician to either be playing music, writing music, recording music, or practicing.

If you're having a hard time accepting these obligations, or are just having a hard time pulling everything together, it won’t be long before you experience a lack of success in your music career.

3. You aren't selling much online or at shows, despite your ongoing best efforts
With musicians increasingly responsible for their own destinies, playing shows and selling merch has become essential to not only promoting your music, but also making money.

Regardless of your ability to promote, market your music, or just plain schmooze, it'll be difficult to establish a career in music without actually having a solid product to offer the world. I know. It’s like the snake eating itself. So while you must extend yourself outside of the traditional comfort zone musicians usually reside in to embrace the business side of things, you still have to crank out exceptional music while establishing yourself as the best at your instrument.

4. You have a hard time organizing your life and your work
If you’re constantly running behind, missing deadlines, getting fired from jobs, or getting dismissed from bands due to your poor organizational habits, you may be in for a difficult ride in the world of music.

While you might think the world revolves around your schedule, there are few times in the music business that only one person is involved. Anytime there's a schedule to follow or deadlines to be met, deviation can be a slap in the face to those you're working with.

Maintaining your health and ability to perform through a steady job or managing your money is also crucial. If you can’t afford to pay for your electric bill to practice, how can you plug in your amplifier? Showing up to gigs dirty and smelly is also a surefire way for people to question your ability to make it in the music business.

5. You want an immediate return on your investment
The phrase "a career in music" is almost a paradoxical statement, because while you may wind up performing and living your life around the constraints and demands of the music business, the actual money that comes with the usual career employment is usually nonexistent.

That being said, if you're in dire need of money and feel constant pressure budgeting your time for under-paying musical activities, you might not be cut out for a life in the music business. The majority of your time will go unpaid, with rehearsals, sound-checks, songwriting sessions, and personal practicing falling well outside of billable time.

Until you've achieved any success at all, you'll likely be paid very little for the time you do spend onstage. Your studio time, if you get any, will be paid for out of pocket or recouped through record sales. If you’re on the business side of things, interning and self-motivated projects are the norm without having applicable industry experience already.

While this might sound bleak, it's merely a reminder that if you truly want a career in the music business, the most important thing that will get you through all the scheduling, time wasting, lack of money, and lack of success is the thing that got you to the door in the first place: your love of music.

Christopher DeArcangelis is an active musician and copywriter from Chicago. He writes songs, plays guitar, and sings vocals for the rock and roll band MAMA and is the founder of the creative agency Static Free Industries.