GUITAR THEORY: Tasty Lead Fills for Chords

September 30, 2016:
Tasty Lead Fills for Chords

PART ONE: In part one we focus on the integration of lead-fills around double stop chord changes. The smaller two note double stops are easier to finger than larger chords and allow for quicker application of scale patterns around the rhythm riffs. 

The lesson moves on to including larger 3-note triads in the next example. Afterward we explore the 7th-chords in a three chord Soul music groove. The final example approaches more unique chords and the use of modes. 

Watch Part 2 of this lesson and download the handout and jamtrack in the members area at:



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How Your Attitude Can Affect Your Musical Life...

Courtesy of Anthony Cerullo... 

You know that practicing every day is essential to developing new skills, but alas, you still let bad habits take control of you.

The brain is a complex organ – the most complex, in fact. As important and complex as it may be, though, most people go throughout their day without giving their brains a second thought. Instead, they sit and ponder, often in confusion.

Perhaps you as a musician are one of these people. Everyone is guilty of this one way or another, and the solution isn't a tricky one to find. It starts by looking deep inside your mind.

"Its Your Attitude - Not Your Aptitude - That Will Take You to Your Ultimate Altitude."
- Zig Zigler -

Depending on your relationship with your mind, certain skills can either flourish or remain blocked off. There's a strong link between what we believe and how we behave. This is especially important in music. Those interested in sticking to their musical goals, creating healthy habits, and ultimately becoming a better musician will surely enjoy the forthcoming research.

First off, we'd highly recommend checking out Carol Dweck's Mindset: The New Psychology of Success for a deeper dive into this subject, as well as Gerald Klickstein's The Musician’s Way for strategies that support the growth mindset and drive musicians to fearlessly pursue their dreams.

The growth attitude mindset
According to psychologists, there are two attitude mindsets that people generally fall into. The first is the growth attitude mindset.

Those who have the growth mindset know that it takes work to succeed. They associate effort with increased knowledge and skill. They hold intelligence in a high regard and never cease learning. When it comes to creativity, those with the growth mindset know that it's not entirely based upon genetics, and that creativity can be learned, developed and bred.

Perhaps one of the more interesting qualities of this group is how they gain inspiration from other people's success. Instead of sulking in a cave of jealousy and resentment, the growth mindset allows one to praise the success of others while simultaneously using it as a competitive tool.

If you haven't guessed already, the growth mindset is the one you want to have. However, some don't fall into this category because, frankly, it takes a lot of hard work. One of the major characteristics of growth mindset folks is that they enjoy challenges. By definition, challenges are tough, and that isn't always enjoyable.

Failing to complete a challenge often leads to loss of confidence, low motivation, and other negative feelings. For this reason, many people avoid challenges. Not growth mindset people, though. They not only enjoy challenges, but they actively seek them out.

If seeking the challenge wasn't enough, they also hunt for advice and criticism intensely. When something sets them back, they don't cower in fear; they get pumped up. They crave as many setbacks as possible. To them, setbacks are opportunities for progress.

That being said, criticism can hurt. Disappointment hurts. If you want a growth mindset, you need to be a bit crazy. You need to crave the pain of disappointment; that's your fuel. This pain will inspire new learning strategies so that in the future, the pain can be avoided.

The attitude of being fixed with your mindset
Those with the fixed mindset attitude aren't as well off as their growth-mindset counterparts. It's not a crime if you fall into this category, but for those looking to enhance their music careers, consider moving away from having a fixed mindset.

Fixed mindset people believe that it's all about ability. They either have it or not. This is usually an unconscious thought. They see themselves and others in a "one or the other" world, what some call a "black-and-white" setting. They're viewing the world as one thing or another either stupid or smart, talented or not, and no amount of effort can change that.In other words, there's NO grey areas.

These people see their favorite artist perform and think, "Wow, he or she is absolutely amazing! I'll never get that good." That's a prime example of a fixed mindset.

Fixed thinkers believe that an artist is naturally gifted to the point of incomprehension. While perhaps having a great time at the concert, the "fixed minders" leave the room depressed that they'll never reach that level of talent.

The growth minders, on the other hand, will race to the practice room and figure out a way to get as good or even better than their favorite artist.They know that with work, great things can be achieved. The Fixed thinker can't get up the motivation to even try, because they're too locked down in their thinking.

Challenges are the worst enemy for the fixed mind. They only bring opportunities of failure and frustration. Fixed minders will also avoid advice like the plague. Instead, they hunt for praise. Praise feels good. (Well, so does beer, but that doesn't mean you should only drink beer, does it? Don't tell that to the fixed mind).

The fixed thinker will also take errors as personal failures. They don't use them as inspiration, but take them as punishment. This punishment leads to a lack of motivation to pursue different learning strategies. From there, they eventually give up after all the disappointment and they will resent others for succeeding. As you can tell, this is a vicious cycle that feeds off negativity and eventually gets out of control. Fret not, though – there is a solution to this self-fulfilling prophecy.

Feeding a positive growth attitude
Contrary to what those negative fixed minders may think, the growth mindset can be taught. It's a game of patience, though, so you'll want to work on that before anything. You can't change your mindset in a day. You need to expertly shape it like a master clay-potter.

Start by creating small, easily achievable goals for yourself. Maybe it's as easy as playing a C major scale with your eyes closed. Whatever it takes to build up your confidence. Over time, you'll see your confidence increase and, along with it, your motivation.

You'll approach the practice room with energy and inspiration. The challenges will increase in difficulty, but they won't feel so discouraging because you've constructed a growth mindset over a long period of time. 

If a bump comes along in your route of progress, worry not. Take time to embrace imperfection. Enjoy it, analyze it, learn from it, and seek it out. Imperfection is the key to your improvement. It just taught you what not to do. Next time, you'll avoid that, and do the job /task better.

All this good work means you deserve some approval, but don't seek it out. If it comes your way, that's great, but don't get lost in it. After all, the growth mindset means you need to keep growing. If you're completely satisfied, that won't happen, and too much approval might lead to stagnating satisfaction.

Anthony Cerullo is a nomadic freelance writer and keyboard player. In his spare time, he can be found reading, hiking mountains, and lying in hammocks for extended periods of time.



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Eddie Van Halen - Hot For Teacher *ISOLATED GUITAR TRACK*

Courtesy of Guitar World... 

Here's one MUST LISTEN isolated guitar recording for you... Eddie Van Halen's live off the studio floor recording of "Hot For Teacher"

“I winged that one,” Eddie told Guitar World several years ago. “If you listen to it, the timing changes in the middle of nowhere.

"We were in a room playing together and I kind of winked at the guys and said, ‘Okay, we’re changing now!’ Because I don’t count, I just follow my feelings. I tend to do a lot of things in threes and fives, instead of fours.

“My weird sense of time just drives my brother Alex nuts because he’s a drummer, so he has to count. But generally he’ll say, ‘Well, Ed, you did it in five again. If that’s the way you want it…’ But that’s not the way I want it, that’s just what feels right to me.”

The guitar solo kicks off at 2:32. Enjoy!



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The 3 Secrets to Performing Great Guitar Solos...

Courtesy of Anthony Cerullo... 

Can you guess the top tricks for performing an amazing guitar solo?

A day in the life of a practicing musician involves a lot of repetition. Whether it's playing the same city over and over again, promoting your music to your fans every night, or playing the same songs every day in practice, it's pretty much impossible to shake repetition.

When one thinks of repetition, a feeling of pleasure isn't usually associated with the word. Instead, we tend to often think of painstaking boredom. But, guess what... it's one of the top tricks for performing an amazing guitar solo. Repeat that solo format over and over and over. Eventually, after enough keys, harmonies, chord coverage's and time you're a great improvisor on the guitar.

It goes without saying that we all need it to sharpen our skills, nail-down our compositions, and become a better performer in general. These all lead to better musical skills and eventually better soloing.

Musicians have to wade through the grind of rehearsing over hours of jam-tracks and the study of their scales and harmony to play great lead. Yet, to really nail being artistic comes down to rolling in several other factors as well. Fortunately, dedicated work, great solos and artistry can coexist, and there are ways to make the process much more tolerable.

Strive for excellence
Striving for excellence all the time sounds like something your high school basketball coach would say, but it rings true for playing great solos as well. By striving for excellence, all the study won't be a chore, but something to cherish and look forward to.Especially as your skills become better and better.

Constantly striving for excellence will eventually create who you are as a lead guitarist. It will build the bed-rock of your style and your sound. If you repeatedly practice poorly, with a "that's good enough" attitude, you're going to be a poor musician (in more ways than one).

However, by making excellence a practice habit, you'll eventually become a living example of that excellence. To do this, you want to try to strive for the best in all possible aspects of music. Whether it's accuracy, rhythm, tone, artistic expression, or just staying focused, you should put equal amounts of excellence into it all.

At first, it might seem challenging and mentally draining. But over time, through the work toward excellence, you'll eventually embody those traits. Soon, excellence won't be a forced habit, but a natural quality.One day you'll be live on stage and it'll just hit you! All that work is finally paying off while ripping out a perfect solo.

Forget mindless repetition
Sometimes playing effortlessly can be confused with playing mindlessly. When you see someone who's in "the zone" and playing some difficult piece perfectly, he or she may look "tuned out," but that's hardly the case. You can't just tune out and expect to become a master musician. This takes a little effort in the art of mindful practice.

This isn't the mindfulness of the pseudo-spiritual variety per se, but more so just staying focused. You want every note that squeaks and leaks out of your instrument to drip with accuracy and artistry. To do this, you must start the journey off correctly in the practice room. You need a map – an intricate map that will help you approach a new piece efficiently. This way, you're not just picking up the music and sight-reading off the bat. Sure, you may learn it eventually, but you'll waste far less time with an organized approach to learning.

Take a moment to look ahead at the music and try to get a feel for the piece before even playing it. If you see certain areas that might be confusing to you, sort them out first. Solve any problems as they arise instead of casting them aside for later. Just like in life outside of the practice room, working your way through problems mean a chance to improve.

Like good habits, repeating a bad habit will help them stick in your head, thus making them harder to remove, (that's bad). Embrace your mistakes, fix them, learn from them, don't repeat them, and plan your practice sessions accordingly.

Overtime, you'll get into a solid routine that woks extremely well at developing your skills for technique, music theory and fingerboard awareness. These lead you to be able to control how and where you want to perform the scale and arpeggio tones on the neck. It all slowly becomes very automatic, and you'll hear everything you want to play before playing it!

Aim for growth and constantly evaluate
If you really want to get "in the zone" as a lead player, you need to see it as a tool to grow into, not as something you'll reach "at some point" and just to maintain. Growth must be a level that you can attain. Once growth is reached, you then extend it further.

Practice is all about growing as a musician. Yes, a great deal of reinforcement is involved with repetition at home in the practice room, but you shouldn't just strive for reinforcement. "Shoot for the moon," as they say, and once you get there, go somewhere further. Each repetition of a lead over a jam-track should see some sort of improvement or exploration.If you're getting dry and burning out, then stop. Come back later when your mind is fresh again.

Even if you nailed the solo technically perfect, there's always something you could be better at. Perhaps you want to perfect your tone the next time around or make sure your limbs are more relaxed. Maybe its more mental, and you want to be a lot more into the solo. Whatever it may be, make sure each repetition of the practiced solo has significance for you. If it doesn't, then stop and take a break. Come back later on. This will help you avoid mindless repetition that becomes such a burden for so many musicians who study improvisation.

Aside from aiming for constant growth, you should make sure to evaluate constantly. Evaluating your music will bring a new level of passion to it. This passion will turn boring repetition into a powerful and inspirational piece of music.

Evaluation is best done by recording yourself and then listening to what you did in another environment. Take the track to your living room, put it on your phone and listen to it out on a walk. Listen in your car, or on the bus or subway. Listen the next day, and then a week later. How do you sound? What can be improved?

You'll find something new to appreciate and to dislike on each listen. And, in the same solo, every time you listen to it something will jump out at you. If you're honest with yourself during these periods of evaluation, you'll find what you don't want with ease, and you'll have a clear path to becoming a true artist and down the road, an amazing soloist.

Anthony Cerullo is a nomadic freelance writer and keyboard player. In his spare time, he can be found reading, hiking mountains, and lying in hammocks for extended periods of time.


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The Best Guitar Amps for Every Genre...

Courtesy of Jesse Sterling Harrison... 

For all the talk about how “tone comes from the fingers,” amplifiers are still critical. Just ask any musician who’s been told, “You have to use our back-line to cut down on soundchecks. Don’t worry – our gear sounds great!”

Do you really want to play on amps that have been set up according to someone else’s personal style and taste? You may still be finding and refining your guitar sound, but you know what sounds bad, and you want to find that tone that will make your music soar. With that in mind, here are some of the best amps on the market for the styles you play.


For metal: Peavey 6505
Based on amps created for Eddie Van Halen during Van Halen’s glory years, these amps have been carried forward by Peavey and have only gotten gainier. If you like to chunk and shred, the first 10 seconds of this demo should have you convinced. That tone could strip paint… and the clean tone isn’t half bad, either.


For (electric) jazz: Roland Jazz Chorus
The cleanest of the clean, the venerable Jazz Chorus also pumps more volume than you’d ever need out of a combo amp, and the sweet onboard chorus is beautiful.


For alternative/modern rock: Mesa Triple Rectifier
This rig has a tone that’s miles deep, and this demo shows just how much crunch and gain can be had with almost zero noise. Listening to this takes one back to Stone Temple Pilots and conjures up memories of Lollapalooza.


For pop: Matchless Avalon 30
In today’s pop music environment, the guitar often takes a supporting role. As such, you might be called upon to work around a prominent vocal, rhythm track, or keyboard riff. A clean-as-a-whistle, low-gain sound is a must, as you can layer effects on top to achieve whatever sound is called for. The Matchless not only looks awesome, it’s also noiseless and completely flexible.


For country: VOX AC30
Modern country music is not for square dancing. Today’s country axe-slingers need power, volume, and the option to saturate the tone with some overdrive. These VOX amps cover all of those bases and will fill pretty much any other need you have for other genres as well. Just ask Queen’s Brian May.


For any genre if you’re broke: Peavey Classic Tube
Of course, all of the above come with a hefty price tag, new or serviceably used. For an amp that boasts a broad range of onboard tones, sweet tube overdrive, and dual twelve-inch speakers, check out the bulletproof Peavey Classic 50, a true budget great.

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.



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Simple Ways to Improve Your Studio Sound...

Courtesy of Jesse Sterling Harrison... 

Maybe you’ve spent hundreds of hours in the same room, rehearsing your material. Perhaps you’ve performed dozens of times, on different stages, using the same gear. You’re used to your sound. You like it. But now you’re in the studio and something just doesn’t seem right. What’s the problem?

It’s no surprise when things that were once okay suddenly sound unacceptable in the studio context. For one, you’ve never scrutinized things so closely before. You’re paying attention to every detail, and some things aren’t up to par. Also, you’re hearing things in a different room, possibly though unfamiliar monitor speakers or headphones.

When you’re spending time and money to record, and you’re ready to put your material out there in every possible medium, you’d better make sure the results are sparkling. Before throwing money at sound problems by replacing gear, try these simple solutions that can make a huge difference.

We’ll start with the drums, since they’re the most labor-intensive instrument to record and mix (and usually the first track laid down). With so much hardware and so many sound sources, the drums are a friendly environment for glitches and weird noises that can infiltrate your recording. There might be an annoying buzz hiding in your hi-hat stand or a loose nut someplace rattling around. But the snare drum is the place to start.

Snare drums are pretty complex sound sources in themselves, with two heads, tension hardware, the stand, and the snares themselves. The most common snare problem is an annoying metallic ring, and sometimes the sustain of the drum has a bad “aftertaste” coming milliseconds after each hit.

Lots of drummers carry a roll of black duct tape around and tape all sorts of things to the drum head to deaden that ring. But the easiest thing to do is to grab one of those credit card offers you get each day in the mail and throw the whole envelope right on your snare head. Stuffed business-sized envelopes are just the right size to leave plenty of surface for hits. They do an almost magical job of killing irritating snare ring, and if the sound isn’t perfect, you don’t have to peel anything off the head – just toss them in the recycling bin (or apply for the credit card… but be aware that credit cards can be a musician’s natural enemy).

Inside your kick drum is another trouble spot. Most drummers throw something in there to reduce boominess and an overly pitchy overtone. The problem is that whatever you’ve thrown in there moves around. Conditions inside a kick drum are similar to those in an uncovered pickup truck bed on the highway: half earthquake, half tornado. If you don’t want your bass drum sound to change haphazardly throughout a take, find an object whose dimensions are consistent, such as a piece of egg crate foam cut to fit. Make sure it’s tight against both heads so it stays put.

If the sound is too dead, just cut it thinner, but don’t make it small enough so it can walk around inside the drum. That’s the reason folded blankets and small sofa pillows don’t work well. They don’t look very good in there, either.

Lastly, think about your bottom heads. They're out of sight, out of mind for most drummers. You can tune them the same as the top heads, a little lower or a little higher, but make sure they’re tuned deliberately and don’t have any holes. Keeping bottom head tuning consistent across the set will make even cheapo student drums sound like a pro set.

Tube amps excel in the studio. Mainly because they are so quiet, (amp hum is next to zero). There's pretty much no solid-state amp that can match the delivery of clean quiet studio sound possible from a tube amp. 

The trouble with tube amplifiers is that their power tubes don’t fail all at once. The tubes just gradually get tired, and with them goes your guitar tone, and in comes the hum and circuit noise. You don’t notice at first because you’re playing the whole time… and it’s not like you can pick one up like a light bulb and see the broken filament inside.

If you can’t remember the last time you changed your tubes, change them now – all of them! Don’t be cheap and just do the older ones. A new set of tubes is a lot cheaper than a new guitar amp, and you’ll notice the difference instantly. By the way, buy matched pairs, and date the new tubes with a black marker so you know when they went in!

If your guitar tracks sound weird in the control room and you can’t quite figure out why, pull out a digital tuner and check your intonation. Do this by comparing your open strings to your harmonics on the twelfth fret. Adjust the saddles until any minute differences are ironed out. Perfect intonation will put the power back in your power chords.

Also on the guitar front, what gauge strings are you using? Yes, it might be easier to play 10-fingered arpeggios on super-duper Slinky strings, but remember that thinner strings make for a thinner sound. Especially in the studio (and especially on rhythm guitar tracks), it might be a good idea to power up with some heavier strings. 

After restringing with heavies, check your tuning, intonation, and truss rod position to make sure the slightly increased tension hasn’t thrown anything out of whack.

So you’ve tracked your rhythm section and a lead vocal, and your lead singer sounds like just a face in the crowd, struggling to find a spot in the mix. The best method to make vocals stand out without having them drown out the rest of the band? Compression.

Remember that a vocal track is much more dynamic than the other instruments, so key syllables might be lost while others scream out over the instruments. No track in your mix wants compression more than a lead vocal. Slap some compression on that track and watch it clear itself some space in the stereo field. It’s like magic. Most DAW systems have onboard compression, but if your system does not, you can get into a rack compressor like the BBE MaxCom Compressor, Limiter and Gate with Sonic Maximizer for under $200.

The other thing to consider when it comes to a vocal is your performance. What is your approach to the song? Frequently, a vocal attack that was good enough for a demo seems to be floating outside the music when you get into a serious recording.

You can vary your performance intensity, singing in a whisper or a scream. You can change your vocal attitude, delivering a vocal that’s almost spoken word. You can sing in character, right down to a Boston accent, to make the narrative voice of your song stand out. You can even make yourself a little less comfortable by performing while kneeling, lying down, or slightly out of breath after running laps around the studio.

As a singer, you’re an impressionist painter and the song is your blank white canvas. Good singers never use the same approach; be intentional about yours.

Bass guitar
You will meet bass players who have never changed their strings and will compare them to things like “a broken-in pair of Doc Martens” or “a worn-in pair of jeans.” That’s great if you play punk rock and have such nice technique that your fingers whisper over the strings and you never break one. For most of us bass players, changing strings is something we mean to get to but just don’t.

How old are your bass strings? Was Obama in office when you put them on, or were we worrying about the Y2K bug? Before you hit the studio, hit the music store and buy a new set. Then, beat them up with a crazy jam session or live show to put a little dirt on them.

Also in the world of the bass guitar, nobody gets sent to the back of the line like the bass player when it comes to upgrading gear. The drummer gets a new China Boy and bundle sticks, the guitarist gets three new pedals, but the bass player is still playing through a Peavey 15 that somebody’s older brother used for middle school jazz band in 1998. Those solid-state combo amps are the Volvo station wagons of the amp world; there’s nothing that great about them, but they’re immortal. In an industry that churns out dozens of brilliant bass cabs and heads, don’t you deserve one you got on purpose?

Of course, amps are pricey, even on the used market. If buying a new amp isn’t in the cards, there’s a cheaper alternative: an amp emulator like Tech21’s marvelous SansAmp. You can use this as a direct box, both live and in the studio, and from experience I can tell you it sounds fabulous. You’ll have a lot of flexibility and outstanding equalization without moving a single mic or twiddling a knob. And with all the other things to worry about when getting an amazing recording, it’s nice to just hit the “pro sound” button on a key tone and forget about it.

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.



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**NEW** Advanced - Project Lesson Three...


**NEW** Stage I - Project Lesson Three...


Lesson three, of Advanced Stage One, is now posted in the Creative Guitar Studio members area. Over 2 ½ hours of video covering the wrap-up of the Major Tonality in the Advanced Guitar Program. 

The lesson begins with our final major scale pattern along with our last Major 7th arpeggio shape. Major triads follow-up next with all five neck patterns included in this lesson. A comprehensive Major triad drill and melodic exercise are also included to help the student integrate each pattern.

The Music Theory section introduces intervals on the neck with the popular intervals of; Perfect, Major, and Minor shapes. A combination of the use of fret-board diagrams and written assignments will help students with the memorization each shape and the shape locations across the neck.

Chord practice concludes the use of the Major 7th chord across the entire fingerboard. The final Major 7th chord shape is introduced. Exercises including rhythm guitar studies help offer a complete review of all of the Major 7th chord shapes introduced in the first three lessons of the Advanced Guitar Program.

The Improvisation section concludes our major tonality study with our final Major JamTrack in the key of, "Bb Major." A springboard melody is offered. The foundational-melody will help players get started with their improvisation studies.


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Composing Minor-key Chord Progressions

GuitarBlog: Composing Minor-key Chord Progressions...

This GuitarBlog episode explains a few of the most popular methods used in contemporary music to compose minor key chord progressions... 

Since Minor Keys are one of the most popular tonalities used today, every practicing musician should study the common minor harmonies in all forms of modern music.

This lesson begins by using I-IV-V situations and building on their relative diatonic chord use. Once these principles are understood, musicians will have more flexibility to produce options for the, "Tonic, Sub-Dominant, Dominant," chord applications. The lesson also includes an explanation on the colorful sounds of the, "Harmonic Minor," in this tonality... 

PART ONE: In the first example, a I-IV-V in the key of "E Minor" is used to demonstrate relative substitution through the Minor Keys, "VI and VII," chords. This is quite possibly the most popular Minor Key sound used in the Minor Tonality. In example two, the harmony is extended out to the, "Seventh-Quality Chords."

PART TWO: In the second half of the lesson, (available with the lesson handout in the members area), the application of examples and principles from Part One are put into action. Example three contains a chord progression that combines the use of ideas of the substitution concepts. Harmonic Minor chord ideas are also introduced as well. Enjoy the lesson!

Composing Minor-key Chord Progressions

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Steve Morse's 12 Tips for Guitarists...

Courtesy of Music Radar... 

Deep Purple and Flying Colors man reflects on 50 years of guitar playing...

At the end of every gig, Steve Morse mentally awards himself a grade for his guitar playing. The show captured on the latest live release by Flying Colors, he tells Guitarist, was a B+. You could have fooled us.

Recorded last October at Switzerland’s Z7 venue, it’s a tour de force, with the blurry-fingered guitarist driving the prog-rock supergroup through tunes from 2012’s self-titled debut album and its 2014 follow-up, Second Nature.

“We had one rehearsal,” Morse remembers, “and we got one shot. So it was a little nerve-racking.”

Morse doesn’t scare easily. At 61, the Ohio-born guitarist’s youthful looks belie a résumé longer than your arm, sprinkled with gigs that would make most players quake.

From the ferocious jazz-fusion of Dixie Dregs in the 70s, through his classical forays alongside Al Di Meola, John McLaughlin and Paco de Lucía in the 80s, to his recruitment as replacement for Deep Purple’s Ritchie Blackmore in 1994, it’s easy to see why he’s considered one of the great all-rounders of our times.

So, with that in mind, here are 12 lessons he's learned over five decades of guitar playing, and what we can all draw from them…

1. Find the right phrasing
“A lot of my heroes were English. When The Stones did Honky Tonk Women, I heard that and said, ‘That is just the coolest thing.’ Keith Richards just had that American feel.

“Pete Townshend’s rhythm playing is always amazing, and anybody who’s heard All Right Now has gotta love that guitar. You can keep on going. Led Zeppelin. Jeff Beck. Yardbirds. Clapton. Steve Howe.

“I try not to exactly take the riffs of those people, but one thing you can learn from Ted Nugent, or Eric Clapton, or even Joe Walsh, is phrasing. That’s why some guitarists are more appealing to listeners, as opposed to just other guitarists.”

2. Get rhythm
The people in the band and the audience basically want you to be a great rhythm guitarist

“I like to see a player with dynamics and control. I guess the most impressive thing is when a guitarist has mastered the instrument, but assumes a role as a support member, up until the time that they’re featured.

“Steve Lukather – one of my most hilarious friends – once said, ‘I did 400 records in LA as a session musician, and never got one job because of my soloing.’

“It’s all about the rhythm. The people in the band and the audience basically want you to be a great rhythm guitarist, and if you can be a great soloist, that’s awesome, but it’s like being able to do a wheelie on a motorcycle. It’s more important to drive safely, because that’s what you’re going to be doing most of the time.”

3. Play to your quirks
“People say they can identify my playing. There’s the fact that I change pickups a lot while I’m soloing and improvising. If you play a low G on the 3rd fret, you’re at the lowest frequencies, so you want more harmonics, so I’ll use the bridge pickup. But then, if you play up high that can be a brittle sound, so I tend to want the [neck pickup].

I love the power of using the alternate picking and having that attack be heard and felt

“Another thing that I tend to do is pick every note. Y’know, I love the power of using the alternate picking and having that attack be heard and felt.”

4. Give your guitar a workout
“If you watch the Flying Colors show, from the start to the end, I have one guitar on and I don’t change it.

“With my Music Man, it’s balanced, it stays in tune and it goes with me everywhere, because it fits in a three-quarter-size bag. I can tuck it under my arm, hand it to people on the airline. And I can also go from the single-coil sound to the humbuckers and combinations thereof.

“It’s still the original, the number one. Actually, I just put a new neck on it, because I pretty much used it up. In fact, right now, I’m trying these stainless-steel frets to see if they last longer and if the sound works.”

5. Know yourself
I’m doing a respectful dance between playing it my way and remembering [Blackmore's] way on the classic tunes

“To a certain percentage of the fans, I don’t succeed as Deep Purple’s guitarist, because I’m not Ritchie Blackmore. But to the majority of people, it’s clear that I’m doing a respectful dance between playing it my way and remembering his way on the classic tunes.

“I don’t really want to copy the exact way that Ritchie played, but I want to remind people of what he did on a solo, then take it out into a different area.

“It’s a balancing act. Imagine somebody out on the wire, and they start to slip, but they use the balancing rod to get themselves back. That’s how I feel, a lot of the time.”

6. Get into DIY
“When I built my Frankenstein Telecaster back in the 60s, there was no Van Halen that I knew. I was helping a girlfriend paint her house and her mum wisely took advantage of the slave labour available. So I suddenly had access to all these materials, like varnish and paint stripper.

“Y’know, my Tele was black when I got it. I just took it apart, stripped off the paint, varnished it up, and then took a chisel to it and started putting more pickups in it.”

7. Give the crowd exactly what they want
If I’m in front of a big crowd, it’s because of the event or because of the name and history of a group that I’m working with. I’m a replaceable cog in the wheel

“I’m a very non-presumptuous person, and I’m realistic about things. So if I’m in front of a big crowd, it’s because of the event or because of the name and history of a group that I’m working with. I’m a replaceable cog in the wheel.

“Literally anybody else could be in the same position as I am. By the dozen, there are guitarists that would be a great asset to any band I’ve ever been in, who would be available in a matter of hours. So I don’t ever think of this as my spotlight. I think, ‘How can I nail this? How can I make this music cook?’ I want the audience to have a great time. That’s all I think about.”

8. Take a breath
“My advice for good soloing? You should start with two-bar phrases. Like, play one full bar and end it somewhere in the beginning of the second bar. Put it in bite-sized pieces like that. Force yourself to imitate a vocal melody and people will like it.

“Automatically, everyone will think, ‘Wow, you’re playing with so much more feeling, so much more melody.’ And really, all you’re doing is giving a little breath between phrases.”

9. Work through your limitations
“I’m a left-handed person but I learned to play right-handed. I’ve practised almost every day for the last 50 years, and my right hand is now becoming an issue, as things wear down and don’t work right any more. It’s more difficult to practise consistently, because it’s literally painful.

“When I get on stage, I can make everything work; the adrenalin overcomes everything. But y’know, everyone has their limitations and my right hand is mine. It’s like, all the stress that I have of playing guitar is centred around that now. It’s forcing me to look at other ways of doing things.”

10. Rise to the tough gigs
“I get tested in any situation. But the tour I did with John McLaughlin, Al Di Meola and Paco de Lucía [back in 1983] was the most challenging. Originally, Al was not going to be there for part of the tour, so I was learning the material to play with them, and it was a big jump, to go from electric guitar to that really intense acoustic playing.

“Then, Al did make the tour, so I became the opening act and played with them at the end. So I was playing classical guitar on my own, in front of big audiences, then with these three guys, trading solos as fast as lightning. That was a very intense test for me.”

11. Enjoy the ride
“I remember some amazing moments. Like, the first time I opened a big show by myself, totally solo, was for Pat Metheny at Red Rocks [in 1983]. I was layering parts using my Prime Time delay and just trying this whole new approach of building up a solo.

“It could have all fallen apart pretty badly, but it worked, and the audience sort of exploded with appreciation at a very critical juncture. Lots of memories. I could write a book about all the amazing things.”

12. The music is the pay-off
Even though most people mistake me for a 20-year-old when they see me, I’ve been playing guitar for 50 years

“Even though most people mistake me for a 20-year-old when they see me, I’ve been playing guitar for 50 years. I’ve sorta based my life around wanting to do this. I had big dreams and big hopes.

“Y’know, the music that I’ve chosen to write has never hit the big time, so most of my income comes from shows, so you have to tour to pay all the taxes and divorces [laughs].

“One thing I could do without is sitting at airports with missed flights and lost luggage – all that. But the music part really is the payoff. It’s so wonderful to be around people that inspire me. I love the music so much.”



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