5 Steps to Take Guitar Solos From Good to Great...

Courtesy of Jesse Sterling Harrison...

The excellent work of all the great guitar players out there shouldn’t stop you from taking a guitar solo; it should inspire you...

..."I never take solos,” says the hipster guitarist... “Everything’s already been done...” 

Well, there are plenty of times when a solo perhaps isn’t needed or maybe isn’t appropriate. There are bands that don’t play solos, and there are bands that just assume every song will have one. But the great work of past players shouldn’t stop you from taking a guitar solo; it should inspire you.

If an amazing guitarist walks onstage, or into a practice space, you can recognize that ability within them in just a few licks. But why? What’s the difference between adequate, tasteful lead work and the powerful playing of a great soloist? 

Here are some of the key differences to listen for, and to try to incorporate into your own guitar playing...

1. Use space
Possibly one of the biggest differences between lead and rhythm is "Silence." Rhythm guitar tracks usually give you a very steady pulse. When playing lead over that type of feel, contrast that by letting the notes hang longer. If you listen to dozens of great leads, how often does the solo begin with a single, soulful note that sustains over a few bars? 

Starting sparsely also gives you a chance to feel the groove and plan what will come up next, especially if you’re playing an improvised solo.

Even better, a lower note density at the start of the solo gives you the opportunity to build excitement and speed as you travel through the format of the solo. If you start with some kind of brutally fast, speaker-shredding run on the first bar, you’d better be ready to sustain and even build on that level of intensity throughout, or the solo will feel anticlimactic.

2. Play over changes
A great guitarist commands the instrument the way a great singer commands their voice. In the course of singing a song, melodic interest is created by singing over changes, often with interesting passing tones that carry over from verse to chorus. You can find those passing tones (notes that sound good over both chord progressions), on guitar and use them to your melodic advantage.

Solos are like "songs within songs," and as such, they're a lot more interesting if they carry over through a verse, a chorus, and a short chordal turnaround than when they’re only played over one section of the song. 

This does not mean that a solo has to be long, just that the band can grind through a couple changes while the solo is taking place. This increases your note palette for the solo, adding different intervals and note ranges to keep things sounding fresh and unpredictable.

3. Create an iconic tone
Unlike great singers, (who are usually recognizable after three or four syllables), great guitarists often change tones song by song. And why not? Manufacturers are always giving them gear for endorsements, and they have racks of guitars at their disposal. 

The common element in great solo tones, however, is attention to detail. Somewhere in the math equation of fingers, guitar, amplifier, and pedals - is a sweet sum that finds every element working in concert.

The missing ingredient in your tone could be revealed with a flick of your pickup selector switch, turning a reverb pedal knob to two o’clock, or rolling off some of the high EQ on an amp. 

When you find "that sound," remember it. Write it down. Or take a picture of your row of pedals with all the right settings. And don’t worry if it sounds similar to another guitarist – you’ll be playing your own songs with your own fingers, so the result will be unique and it will sound awesome.

4. Incorporate non-note material
If the solo you’re playing was transcribed as tablature, how often would notes need to be included to explain some bizarre sound that sheet music wouldn’t cover? Tabs might include parenthetical explanations like “(presses strings against bridge pickup)”, or “(slides guitar pick down wound strings to the nut)”.

There are endless possibilities of non-notes you can play, and this is one of the ways we can play our guitars in “vocalese.”

Singers incorporate all sorts of non-notes in their performances: snorts, laughs, breath sounds, kissy sounds, and growls. Great guitarists achieve a similar variety of noises on the guitar, using mutes, pick slides, bending notes (sometimes right off the fret-board), and the “slurp” of sweep-picking three or four muted strings.

5. Use complete sentences
Like chess players, great soloists are thinking several moves ahead. They use phrases that resolve over several measures. Less great guitarists tend to be more shortsighted, playing a large number of busy phrases that start and end quickly. Think about a politician delivering a speech, or a minister preaching a sermon. Great orators and great soloists use pace, phrasing, and intensity to achieve an emotional impact. They set up the listener, building anticipation, and then bring the matter to a conclusion by powerfully resolving the composition.

This takes patience and timing, along with a plan of the note or notes in the solo’s final phrase. If you know where you're going, you can approach that point once, then twice, and then finally achieve that resolution. That’s some of the stuff that a great guitar solo is made of.

Jesse Sterling Harrison is an author, recording artist, and part-time farmer. He lives in Massachusetts with his wife, three daughters, and a herd of ducks.

Figure it Out Fridays: Lesson 010 - Part One

Figure it Out Fridays: Lesson 010 - Part One

Welcome to, "Figure it Out Fridays - Lesson 010," the unique Ear Training Guitar Lesson on YouTube. 

The focus of these lessons will be to study how to transcribe, (learn by ear), a new guitar melody or a chord progression every week... 

Musical ideas are released on Tuesday's, with the Music and TAB's released that same week on Friday. Do your best on the days in between to learn the musical parts. Then, be sure to check out the "Part Two" video to learn exactly how the musical idea operates. Enjoy, and good luck transcribing!

Figure it Out Fridays: Lesson 010 - Part One

2-String Wide Lateral Guitar Arpeggio Patterns

GuitarBlog: 2-String Wide Lateral Guitar Arpeggio Patterns...

Guitar players tend to learn their arpeggios in very vertical ways. Generally, within a "box shape" on the guitar fingerboard. 

While this can offer us a few common sounds and applications of the arpeggio musically, it's not until we begin studying arpeggios in a more 'along the neck' manner that the arpeggios will really begin to help us make some very cool sounding phrases. 

In this lesson, I run through a methodology covering how to play 2-string "along the neck" arpeggios. These arpeggios are unique in how they both operate on the neck and in how they are applied in a melody or in a lead.

We'll explore a few of the more common the shapes, and convert their quality from major to minor. From there, we'll expand upon the arpeggios by exploring the 7th extension and we'll put them to use by applying them in a short musical phrase. Enjoy the lesson!

Wide Lateral Guitar Arpeggio Patterns

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Figure it Out Friday's: Lesson 009 - Part Two

Figure it Out Friday's: Lesson 009 - Part Two

Welcome to, "Figure it Out Fridays: Lesson 009 - Part Two," Ear Training Guitar Lesson. 

Here's the Answer Key for, "Figure it Out Fridays," Ear Training Lesson 009.

In this series, we study how to transcribe a new guitar melody or chord progression every week. Musical ideas are released on Tuesday, with the Music and TAB's released that same week on Fridays. Do your best on the days "in between" to learn the different guitar parts. 

Up-Load your guess of Tuesdays guitar idea (from the part one lesson) to your YouTube channel. Share your examples on; GooglePlus, Twitter and on FaceBook. 

Be sure to check-out the "Part Two" video released every Friday to learn exactly how Tuesdays guitar part looks charted to TAB and in Music Notation. Enjoy the series!

Figure it Out Fridays: Lesson 009 - Part Two

How to Write Songs in Irregular Time Signatures

Courtesy of Mahea Lee...

Introducing irregular time signatures into your compositional practice can be a liberating experience. Like anything else in music, nothing is hard and fast here, and there’s certainly a bit of magic involved, but here are a few tips to help you start experimenting.

1. Question your motives
First off, figure out what exactly you intend to accomplish. If you want to do some odd meter composing just to do it, great. Experiment like crazy. If you want to craft some sort of musical, mathematical riddle, I’m all for it and please send me links when you’re done because I love that sort of thing. But if you want to create something an audience will still groove to, the remaining points are things you should take into consideration.

2. Think about subdivision
While standard time signatures can be broken down into very symmetrical subdivisions, irregular meters often allow for several asymmetrical options. Consider the time signature 6/8. We subdivide it into two even sets of three eighth notes, or two dotted quarter notes.
 Now think about 7/8. We’ve only added one beat to the measure, but suddenly we’re faced with a few possible subdivisions.
We’ve got dotted quarter, quarter, quarter (or “one-two-three, one-two, one-two”):

Example: “Rubylove” (Cat Stevens)

We could put that dotted quarter in the middle (giving us “one-two, one-two-three, one-two”): 
Or my personal favorite: quarter, quarter, dotted quarter (which we count “one-two, one-two, one-two-three”): 
Example: First 12 bars of “Subdivisions” (Rush)

The reason I prefer this particular subdivision of 7/8 is that it very naturally leads into beat one of the next measure… which is a statement that very nicely leads me to the next point…

3. Land on strong beats
One of the simplest ways to make an audience feel at home in an irregular time signature is to really emphasize beat one. One way you can do this is by keeping sustained notes at the front of the bar, while adding a bit of motion at the end, like this:
 The three notes at the end of the bar sort of drop us into beat one of the next bar. They create a small sense of anticipation, making the next downbeat feel like a landing place.

You can also emphasize strong beats harmonically, by starting measures with a tonic chord.

Example: “Money” (Pink Floyd)

Like in most grooves, the bass line plays a key role here. Notice how it’s essentially outlining our tonic chord, Bmin7, always landing on the root on beat one. Speaking of outlining chords…

4. Keep it accessible
I have friends from music school who prefer music riddled with modal interchange, chromatic melodies, and shifting time signatures. Whether consciously or subconsciously, many of them treat music like a puzzle and prefer elaborate compositions because they have the tools to make sense of them. Their ears are acclimated to this sort of thing.

However, as of late, I’ve been listening to more mainstream music, so when it comes to all those complexities, my ears are a little out of practice. If there are too many compositional surprises in a piece, my brain goes into overdrive while I listen. If I’m feeling lazy or tired, I start to tune it out, and I have found that many people share that sentiment.

To avoid writing something that sounds overly complicated, focus on one cool thing at a time. If that goes well and the piece calls for more, make alterations.

For instance, let’s assume the one cool thing is that we’re writing a piece in 11/8. Great. If we don’t want our listeners to feel overworked, we may want to start with a melody that’s a bit stagnant or full of space. Perhaps we start with a really simple, two-chord, diatonic progression. Then, if what we have feels too simple, we can always go back and alter the melody and consider some reharmonization.

Take another look at "Money." Because we’re lingering on that Bmin7, we don’t have to work to keep up with the harmony. Even though 7/4 is a fairly unfamiliar time signature, the song is easy to groove to because there’s no musical clutter (also because Pink Floyd is amazing and this is one of the greatest songs ever written).

Experimenting with irregular time signatures is a great way to shake up your personal writing style and stretch your compositional muscles. Listen to examples until irregular meters start to feel natural to you, and you’ll likely come up with some cool grooves without having to put so much thought into it. We’d love to check out some of your favorite examples of atypical time, so please add them to the comments!

Mahea Lee is a classically trained pianist and composer who has a degree from a jazz school and leads an electro-pop band. Her greatest musical passion is lyrical songwriting, but she's been known to write the occasional fugue. She graduated from Berklee College of Music, where she majored in contemporary writing and production and minored in music theory.

5 Physical and Mental Condition Tips for Musicians...

Courtesy of Jhoni Jackson

Peak conditions, for most musicians, are slowly developed - not forced into our musical lives at great expense...

You don't have to squeeze a mini-gym into your home and spend hundreds of dollars a month on bulk quantities of nutritional supplements to keep yourself in decent physical and mental shape as a busy professional musician. 

You should strive to maintain at least a modicum of healthy behaviors everyday. Though, as busy as a professional musician can be, you still require balance. And, keeping up your mental abilities and your sense of health can be pretty rough on your body, your wallet, and your state of mind.

Here are five ways to best defend against major emotional stress and the maintenance of your personal daily health.

1. Prepare thoroughly
This one speaks directly to your mental state as a busy musician on a day to day basis: Plan well and you'll experience far less stress throughout your working day.

If you're a teacher - plan what you'll teach. If you're a side-man be sure you practice the material. Never just wing-it. This is a recipe for disaster, and a surefire way to never get a call-back.

Planning is especially important for gigs. Obviously, you cannot be late for a gig. Research before you route. Learn about the location of where you're booked to play. Get solidly organized for your trip, (especially if it's out of town).

Make sure you've got funds – not just the money you expect to earn – available for food and gas (and a backup stash for emergencies too, like a blown tire). If it's an over-night, figure out where you'll stay to avoid the costly or crappy sleeping situations that result from late-night, last-minute scrambling.

And, be sure to get your vehicle checked out before you go to minimize the chance of surprise malfunctions.

The more rigorously you map out all aspects of any gig, the less likely you are to encounter problems, meaning less strain on your mental well-being.

2. Stay hydrated
Even mild dehydration can drain your energy and make you tired, according to the Mayo Clinic (and also common sense). Everyone knows humans need to drink plenty of water on a regular basis. And, this actually increases during higher periods of brain activity. So, if you're studying, or if you're a teacher teaching classes all evening, DRINK WATER.

Though, you might need to up that intake ever greater during longer rehearsals or personal practice sessions. Also, when on gigs, remember - the more you sweat, the more water you will need. So, consider the climate and the intensity of your sets when gauging how frequently you need to hydrate.

Tip: Don't waste money (or plastic) on bottled water. It can get really expensive. Take along a high-quality reusable container and fill up free of charge at gas stations, venues, people's houses, or anywhere else you stop along the way.

3. Eat well and supplement
Fast food and gas station snacks are the easiest way to eat when on the way to band practice, to your gig, or during breaks while you are teaching your students each night. But you know damn well they're also the unhealthiest.

Everyone tends to enjoy a big fat juicy cheese-burger and fries, but a meal high in fat will bog you down with grogginess. Avoid succumbing to the temptations of delicious-but-detrimental dining by planning your meals and snacks well in advance. Stock up on groceries for the road – buy healthy stuff – from the get-go, then re-up before you run out.

Healthy eating doesn't only help your physical energy levels, but also aids brain function. (And you'll save a lot of money this way, too).

High quality nutritional supplements are also great. A dose of high-quality Vitamin B12 methylcobalamin will give you a nice energy boost and clear your mind of brain fog. A high-quality liquid Vitamin D3 of Cholecalciferol (vitamin D3)  helps maintain a positive attitude and a good overall feeling. And, Fish Oil will boost your mental processes, keeping you more sharp and on-track through your day. 

There are also many other supplements that will help you with staying focused and maintaining a much better /healthier balanced daily routine. So, definitely research this area and learn about how nutraceuticals can make a big difference for you.

4. Get adequate rest
Another factor in maintaining high energy levels and a good attitude is sleep. It's not always possible to get the recommended seven to eight hours, (especially on tour). That's where naps come in. Studies show they can help make up for hours lost: A nap can give your brain a boost, better your mood, and lower your stress levels.

But not all naps are created equal – there are stipulations. Ten to 30 minutes between 1:00 and 4:00 p.m., apparently, is an official power nap. Rest for too long and you might feel foggy; start your quickie shut-eye too late in the day and you'll likely screw up your nighttime sleep. Try to get into a routine of remembering that three-hour window of ideal nap-time, and if you're on the road, take turns among whoever needs the extra sleep or who's driving the vehicle the longest.

5. Be positive
It's a tried-and-true way of being for countless musicians, but there's also plenty scientific support for the PMA (Positive Mental Attitude) long-established ethos.

A perpetually chin-up perspective decreases stress and potential for depression, helps your body resist the common cold, boosts your psychological health, and much more – all of which can be especially helpful in meeting the demands of a busy musician.

Jhoni Jackson is an Atlanta-bred music journalist currently based in San Juan, Puerto Rico, where she juggles owning a venue called Club 77, freelance writing and, of course, going to the beach as often as possible.

5 Solutions for "Gear Acquisition Syndrome" (GAS)...

Courtesy of Eric Bernsen

It eats up your time and slows down your productivity. It’s been known to stop recording sessions in their tracks, break up bands, and end lifelong friendships... Do you have "Too Much Gear?"

Having a ton of music equipment, (guitars, amps, pedals, etc.), promises unimaginably glorious results. But, as anyone who’s ever had a lot of gear knows, all you get from it is crushed dreams and big-time credit card debt.

That’s right, we’re talking about Gear Acquisition Syndrome (GAS) – the unquenchable desire for more and more and MORE music gear. If you think that you may be suffering from GAS, don’t worry – we’ve all been there, and we can all get through it if we just stick together.

Before you panic, try out these five household remedies for GAS, and if they don’t help you, consider seeking professional advice.

1. Rent, trade, or borrow gear
Whether it’s a high-end microphone, a vintage guitar, or a Steinway grand piano, it’s important to remember that there are ways to get access to music gear without making a purchase.

Music shops will rent you all sorts of gear that you could only have dreamed about getting your hands on before – often for a fraction of what the gear is worth. Just be careful not to indulge your rental habit too much, or to turn your rental into a deferred purchase plan that starts piling up interest payments.

It's important to remember that many of the classic pieces of gear we associate with our favorite musicians didn’t actually belong to those musicians in the first place. The iconic Telecaster that Jeff Buckley used to record Grace actually belonged to a friend of his named Janine Nichols, and Nels Cline borrowed Mike Watt’s 1959 Jazzmaster to take on tour before eventually buying the instrument from him (for a grand total of $800 – not bad for an instrument that would now retail for at least $10,000).

2. Find a more affordable version
Many of us who record or mix music associate certain sounds with certain iconic pieces of studio gear like compressors, EQs, and mixers. So does that mean everyone who wants the classic "SSL sound" has to buy an actual SSL mixing board? Absolutely not. Chances are, you can get almost exactly the same sound from a digital plugin for a fraction of the price.

And you don’t always have to go digital to save money, either. There are many independent microphone manufacturers out there that make realistic-sounding knock-off versions of classic mics like the Neumann U87, so you can get that classic Neumann sound from a real piece of analog gear, without having to blow your entire life savings.

3. Set a budget
There’s nothing wrong with buying gear – as long as you can actually afford it. That’s why it’s a good idea to set aside an annual, quarterly, or even monthly budget for gear expenses. After all, it’s hard to stay within your limitations if you don’t know what your limitations are.

With a realistic and well-thought-out budget, you don’t have to feel guilty about buying gear once in a while as long as your expenses don’t exceed your budget.

Rather than being restrictive, a budget can actually give you more flexibility: it allows you to use your money when it’s available, but it also lets you know when your gear habit is about to interfere with other pesky habits like eating three meals a day or paying your rent on time.

4. Enjoy what you already have
Being such visionary and forward-thinking individuals, many musicians find it challenging to live in the moment and enjoy what they already have, whether that’s career success or musical equipment.

This is why we all need a good reality check once in a while to force us to take stock of what we already have. Think back to when you bought some of your current equipment in the first place and try to remember how excited you were in that moment. If that doesn’t work, try re-reading some of the reviews that first convinced you to buy the gear you currently own.

If you can recapture some of the excitement of that initial gear purchase, you’ll find that your desire for new gear starts to slide away.

5. Embrace your limitations
How many amazing albums have been made with sub-par equipment? Beck, Iron and Wine, Queen, the White Stripes, the Rolling Stones, the Beatles, the list goes on. Often, these recordings are considered great not in spite of, but because of the poor quality of the equipment.

Take Beck, for example – when he was recording Odelay on an outdated version of Pro Tools that belonged to the Dust Brothers (see, borrowing works!), he found that the software was so slow that he had time to listen to albums while he was waiting for the computer to process sounds. As it turns out, Beck found most of the samples that ended up on the album during these technology breaks.

While we all love to buy, think about, dream about, and obsess over the latest piece of musical equipment, let’s not forget what really matters in the end. When we see a great building, we’re not thinking about the type of hammer the carpenter used – the carpenter might have thought a great deal about his tools during the construction process, but all we see now is the beautiful structure that remains.

The same goes for your music. While you might fret endlessly over which of your Stratocasters to use on which song, and which of the five possible pickup combinations to use for each section of each song, all your listeners will care about in the end is whether or not your music makes them feel something.

So if you find that your case of GAS is really incurable, perhaps the best thing you can do is to just pick up your instrument or set up a microphone (please – just any microphone!), start making music, and start feeling something.

Casey van Wensem is a freelance composer, musician, and writer living in Kelowna, B.C., Canada.

Figure it Out Fridays: Lesson 009 - Part One

Figure it Out Fridays: Lesson 009 - Part One

Welcome to, "Figure it Out Fridays - Lesson 009," the unique Ear Training Guitar Lesson on YouTube. 

The focus of these lessons will be to study how to transcribe, (learn by ear), a new guitar melody or a chord progression every week... 

Musical ideas are released on Tuesday's, with the Music and TAB's released that same week on Friday. Do your best on the days in between to learn the musical parts. Then, be sure to check out the "Part Two" video to learn exactly how the musical idea operates. Enjoy, and good luck transcribing!

Figure it Out Fridays: Lesson 009 - Part One

4 Tips on Experimenting With Other Genres...

Courtesy of Eric Bernsen

Once you've been writing and performing long enough that you fully understand what type of sound you want to share with the world, it's time to start experimenting with other music styles...

It takes years of hard work to build a strong musical foundation. Once you've been writing and performing long enough that you fully understand what type of music you want to share with the world, you begin to feel liberated. But after gaining experience and building a strong catalog, it's only natural to want to experiment and create work with different influences outside of the niche that got you this far. This is vital to achieving artistic growth, but also risky because not everyone is ready to succeed in a genre-crossing endeavor.

It's always good to push yourself outside of your musical comfort zone, and once you understand the basics of your favorite styles, you're totally ready to experiment with other genres and styles to further expand your horizons.

1. You're feeling musically inspired to learn other genres
Life as a musician comes with a natural ebb and flow of the creative process. Some days will be filled with endless inspiration to create, while others will be relatively inactive. This is the way of the world. However, long periods of feeling uninspired should bring about some questions.

If you’re experiencing a lack of musical desire, it may be a sign that the innovator in you is craving to delve into new territory. Now's a great time to try switching things up in your normal songwriting and practicing routines! Realize that new styles are a fantastic way to learn about new; harmony, phrasing, time signatures and scale types.

2. Gain a new outlook after a particular cultural experience
At some point or another, we all go through life-altering experiences that change the way we view the world. Many times this can come from exposure or introduction into new cultural influences, family ties, and friends from other parts of the world.

From our most joyous achievements and travels to the most devastating losses, events occurring outside of the studio should ultimately shape the atmosphere of the music you create. And, life events are powerful emotional drivers, which can translate to exciting new musical ideas. When you mix the cultural side of new experiences, the musical influence and make the entire idea more interesting.

Capturing the most powerful emotions you feel during impactful life moments and channeling it into your work can unlock a potential you never knew you had.Each culture has a particular groove, or scale influence. You can build on this and take it into many different directions.

Be mindful of life outside of music. I don’t recommend completely changing your style based on one particular cultural experience, but you’re more likely to be successful experimenting with different genres when you're ready to obtain a fresh musical perspective, usually from a unique encounter culturally, (i.e., a festival or wedding event).

3. Reflect on your own personal family roots
Some artists make family the focal point of their music, while others choose to keep their personal life private. Yet the older we get, the more we tend to ponder how our backgrounds play such a prominent role in the type of people we've become. Reflecting on family roots can be a great catalyst for creating music inspired by a particular genre, even if it isn’t directly aligned with the type of music you usually create.

For example, if you're a hip-hop artist with a Caribbean background, you may be inclined to make rap music with reggae /dancehall elements. You shouldn’t take this route simply because people are expecting it based on your heritage, but more as a natural desire to showcase the sounds of your family's birthplace is something to embrace. Once you fully believe you’re ready for a new challenge, don’t hesitate to take a deep dive into your family history and create authentic music based on your findings.

4. Learn new musical skills through another cultural instrument
Musical knowledge has no boundaries, and you should always be taking the time to learn different instruments in order to expand your horizons. As you acquire new skills and increase the breadth of your artistry, you’ll naturally become equipped to create new, unique sounds.

Letting go of your past work and steering clear of any assumptions about your art based upon your primary instrument is a bold move. But, once you’ve undergone enough introspection to wholeheartedly understand where you stand artistically, experimenting with difference genres via another instrument could turn out to be one of the best choices you’ve ever made.

Eric Bernsen is a marketing/public relations professional and music journalist who specializes in the genre of hip-hop. You can find more of his work at HITPmusic.com (where he is an editor/writer) as well as HipHop-N-More.com, where he contributes album reviews. Follow Eric on Twitter @ebernsen.

Jazz Guitar Octaves - Minor Pentatonic Scale

GuitarBlog: Jazz Guitar Octaves - Minor Pentatonic Scale...

Octaves played on guitar are a popular sound and not one that is only performed by Rock players like Hendrix, or Jazz Guitarists like, Wes Montgomery... 

Many other players in many other styles are using octaves.

Blues, R and B, Pop, Smooth-Jazz and even Country players will apply this "Octave Scale" sound. And, since it's such a natural sounding guitar effect, (with or without effects), the ways it can be applied are abundant. 

Players can apply this "Octave Scales" sound through melodic fills and lead guitar parts. All it takes is learning some basic left-hand muting technique, (so your other surrounding strings are as quiet as possible). 

Then you can get to work on organizing the use of the octaves around scales. In this video, I'll cover the general technique, we'll look over some scale shapes for Minor Pentatonic and we'll apply octaves in a riff. Enjoy the lesson!

Guitar Octaves - Minor Pentatonic Scale

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Figure it Out Friday's: Lesson 008 - Part Two

Figure it Out Friday's: Lesson 008 - Part Two

Welcome to, "Figure it Out Fridays: Lesson 008 - Part Two," Ear Training Guitar Lesson. 

Here's the Answer Key for, "Figure it Out Fridays," Ear Training Lesson 008.

In this series, we study how to transcribe a new guitar melody or chord progression every week. Musical ideas are released on Tuesday, with the Music and TAB's released that same week on Fridays. Do your best on the days "in between" to learn the different guitar parts. 

Up-Load your guess of Tuesdays guitar idea (from the part one lesson) to your YouTube channel. Share your examples on; GooglePlus, Twitter and on FaceBook. 

Be sure to check-out the "Part Two" video released every Friday to learn exactly how Tuesdays guitar part looks charted to TAB and in Music Notation. Enjoy the series!

Figure it Out Fridays: Lesson 008 - Part Two

5 Things Guitarists Switching to Bass Need to Know...

Courtesy of Jesse Sterling Harrison

Think you’ve got the mindset to trade your six-string for the low end? Here are five things you need to know...

In the early days of rock 'n' roll, the spotlight seemed firmly fixed on the guitarists and singers. There was little love or recognition for the rhythm section. Of course, things have changed a lot since Buddy Holly and the Crickets started rocking high school gyms. Metal and progressive rock came along, demanding a higher technical standard from players on all instruments and turning drummers and bassists into heroes.

But now, true musicians know that great bass players were there since the beginning, keeping drummers on tempo, supporting the melodies of singers, and taming noisy guitarists. The bassist plays a noble role in any band. Think you’ve got the mindset to trade your six-string for the low end? Here are five things you need to know.

1. Economical technique equals greater endurance
The bass can take a lot out of the hands and arms, especially when you’re used to skinny guitar strings. Whether you’re using a pick, or you're plucking strings with your fingers, you'll need to find ways to use a light, fluid technique with your right hand (assuming you’re a righty player). 

Plucking each note softly instead of murdering it will save your strength and get you through the entire set without having to stop and shake your arms out too often or risk a repetitive stress injury.

Playing too hard all the time is one of the first mistakes guitarists make when they switch instruments. Technology is on your side in this battle; many bass amplifiers come with onboard compression to boost those lightly played notes and prevent your speakers from being shredded when you hit it a little harder.

2. Know when to go back to your roots
A simple song can be riveting when it’s played solo. A songwriter/guitarist strumming three chords and singing poignant lyrics? Great. But when that song comes into a band context, it can get pretty dull unless the other players add distinctive and original parts. 

The bassist is the guitarist’s closest compositional partner. When the guitar part is simple, it’s time for the bassist to chime in with something driving and melodic to add depth and interest to the piece.

But what if the guitar’s playing a groovy single-note line? The bass can double the part to add power and focus. There are no rules when it comes to writing, but there can be helpful guidelines. Adding whatever the composition needs is one of them. Similarly, there are times to bang out the roots of each chord, and times to add a distinctive counterpoint.

You’ll be pulled in a lot of different directions as a bassist: supporting the guitar and vocals, locking in with the drummer, and adding your own flavor to the composition. But the song is always king. When things work, you’ll know it.

3. There's always room for improvisation
Because of the low pitch register of the bass, you’ll have room to improvise more or less continuously throughout many pieces. This doesn’t mean standing on top of a platform and dominating the room like a Les Claypool or Billy Sheehan (although there are times for that as well). 

Think of the walking bass-line in jazz: it’s not written out – it’s made up on the spot because the bassist knows the chord progression and the notes of the scale that fit each chord.

This is a different way of thinking for guitar players, who often just know the part they’re playing and a pentatonic blues scale in the right key so they can take a solo after the second chorus. Good bass players know enough music theory to improvise by ear within the chords of the song. 

This contributes to the energy and depth of your band’s performance and doesn’t distract from higher register instruments like horns, guitars or voice. "Soloing all the time, but not soloing," as one veteran session bassist explains it.

4. Pay attention to that bass drum (and your drummer in general)
Nothing kicks like a bass matching up with a drum set, and that frequently manifests when the bassist accompanies each beat of the kick drum with a low, punchy note on the low-E string. 

At other times, you might play the off beats in between bass drum hits, but it always pays to know where those hits are and use them. You’ll also have the opportunity to fill along with the drummer, matching up composed fills at strategic points in the song. Tight unison fills and bass-drum matching are among those intangibles that make a band sound incredible.

5. Don't crowd the space after a sung verse
Sooner or later, your singer needs to take a breath, and if you’re not careful, you’ll have several players all trying to fill that space at once. Unless you’re playing "out-side" jazz, you probably can’t all solo over the same measure. This problem can be fixed compositionally, by drawing out verses so there’s more space between each sung passage. It can also be fixed by having every musician listen to one another and trade short phrases.

A melodic run on the bass, a couple of choice licks on lead guitar, a flourish on the keys, and a quick drum fill to lead into the next verse can all happen within a few seconds. When musicians stay in their lanes and support one another, the music sounds like a conversation, and your audience is who you’re speaking to. As a bass player, you’re in the perfect spot to ensure that conversation happens.

If you're thinking of adding the bass to your repertoire, try these tips to progress faster!

Jesse Sterling Harrison is an author, recording artist, and part-time farmer. He lives in Massachusetts with his wife, three daughters, and a herd of ducks.

YOUR SOUND: 3 Ways to EQ Without Driving Yourself Crazy...

Courtesy of Aaron Staniulis

When recording, the first thing many people tend to reach for when looking to shape their sound is an equalizer slider. Many times, this can be can be the perfect tool, but it's not your only option...

A sure sign of amateur mixes is that they usually get "overcooked" with EQ, especially in the digital realm. This is something even experienced engineers, (myself included), find themselves running into from time to time. So what other options do we have before we start turning knobs?

1. Play with mic placement
I’ve mentioned it before, but it bears repeating: proper mic technique and working on good mic placement practices can change your recording life. So often the "fix it in the mix" mentality reigns supreme and a mediocre mic placement is becoming more acceptable as a practice.

One of my recording mentors prescribes an exercise in which you’re not allowed to use EQ or compression to mix a simple multi-track, using only faders and your mic placement to temper the sound. I've always found this to be a really eye-opening exercise, especially for the "YouTube generation" of engineers.

If you don’t believe this can make an appreciable difference, take nothing more than a simple dynamic mic and a guitar amp, and try to get a dozen different tones from the guitar setup by moving said mic around. By simply varying the proximity to the speaker cone, the distance to and from the amp, and the angle you place the mic at, you can shape the sound immensely with the smallest of adjustments.

Taking 10 minutes during the tracking phase of your project to find the best placement for whatever source you’re trying to capture can translate to saving hours on the back-end chasing the sound you’ve been looking for.

At a time when engineers seem to have more commitment issues than a high school senior’s dating life, working to get these sounds early on and committing to them seems to be a lost art.

2. Judge your sound by phasing
Any time you use multiple mics on a source – be it drums, a guitar cab, a cajon, literally anything – phase coherence is something you need to be aware of. While this is an important issue, and the results of an offset in phase is often undesirable, the obsession with phase is something that I would categorize along with a number of issues in recording that have become a bit of a, "monster under the bed."

With the shift to working, "in the box," in the recording industry, many people end up mixing more with their eyes than their ears, becoming obsessed with how sounds look on the screen rather than how they actually sound. Sure, it’s great when all the wave-forms line up perfectly, and everything looks pretty on screen, but how does it sound?

Many of the records we revere and love were mixed without the incredibly detailed levels of metering and analysis we have available to us today, and many of them have technical imperfections that would make the skin crawl of those who mix in this overly academic manner.

Piggybacking on the point of mic placement, use your ears in your multi-mic setups as well. If you’re getting the sound you want – even if it’s a result of less-than-perfect phase coherence – live with it! At the end of the day, no one is going to see what you did, only hear the final product.

3. Suppress with multi-band compression
While some people may argue that, in a way, multi-band compression is a type of EQ, the way it functions from a typical equalizer couldn't be more different. Most multi-band EQs allow you to set separate bands of the frequency spectrum and apply individual compressors onto only those bands. Using a multi-band compressor in place of EQ has become a practice I've been using more often in my own mixes as of late.

When you have a problematic frequency in a sound, it may only become problematic intermittently (certain words or phrases in a vocal, or maybe certain notes on a bass or guitar part). Reaching in to eliminate them with an EQ can sometimes be like using a hatchet to kill a fly.

When you EQ, you have to take an all-or-nothing approach unless you take the time to automate all your EQ moves. However, depending on the problem you’re chasing, automation can often be tedious at best and impossible at worst. Multi-band compression allows you to suppress or push back the offending issues without eliminating them completely. This can allow you to keep characteristics of a sound that may be desirable most of the time while ducking issues that stick out or become an issue for one reason or another.

Aaron Staniulis is not only a freelance live sound and recording engineer, but also an accomplished musician, singer, and songwriter. He has spent equal time on both sides of the microphone working for and playing alongside everyone from local bar cover bands to major label recording artists, in venues stretching from tens to tens of thousands of people.