These Might Just Be The Best 10 Tips For Guitar Players Ever

10 Tips For Improving On GuitarIn my capacity as a guitar teacher I hear lots of excuses, including the time-worn “I don’t have the talent.”

Talent, schmalent.

While we can’t all be Hendrix, you can get pretty damn close if you follow these basic guidelines:

10. Learn the notes on the fretboard

There’s a lot of them but you don’t have to memorize them all at once.

Start with the open strings – EADGBE (top to bottom) — and use a mnemonic trick.

I like “Eddie and Dave Got Bad Eggs.” If you go from bottom to top, try “Every Bad Girl Deserves an Eggplant.”

Once you’ve got that, move on to the first four frets on each string.

Play each string slowly and say each note out loud, from the top (bass) string to the bottom.

After those are memorized, you can move to the next four frets. This chart will help:

Why learn the notes? For a myriad of reasons, Grasshopper.

  • You can communicate better with other musicians.
  • You’ll understand theory better.
  • Most importantly, you’ll play in tune.

If you’re playing an F note in your solo and the song is in the key of G, your audience’s ears will bleed.

If you know the names of the notes, you’ll know where that pesky F lives so you can avoid it and save the hearing of millions of people.

9. Learn the sound of chord types

Start with the difference between a major and a minor chord. You can hear the difference between an A minor and an A, right?

Without diving into too much theory, I’ll tell you that a minor chord has a flatted third.

That’s what gives it that dark sound, perfect for a change in mood. Other chords have their own associations.

A seventh chord has a blues feel. They also sound great at the end of a phrase, especially if you go to a major chord after that.

Ninth chords are perfect in jazz and sometimes as a transition in other styles.

Experiment.

If you usually play a minor chord in a song, what happens when you substitute a major? Ninth?

Becoming familiar with different chord types will help you figure out the chords to a favorite song. It’s also a great tool for songwriters.

8. Listen to a variety of styles for inspiration

Okay, you’re a metal head. Did you know that Randy Rhoads (Ozzy Osbourne) studied classical music?

Maybe you’re into classic rock – did you know that in the early days the Beatles were a skiffle band, a form of folk music? That’s where that picking pattern in “Blackbird” comes from.

So, raid your little sister’s music collection and play along to that Shawn Mendes tune. You don’t have to love it and I’ll bet you’ll learn something.

Or see what your girlfriend’s Bob Marley mix has to offer you. What happens when you play a reggae strum for a pop song?

Magic, that’s what.

7. Learn how to hum and play simple melodies

Ignore the advice you got for grade school choir. Ear training is possible for even the most tuneless singer.

Start by playing one note and singing it. Once that sounds pretty good – and it may take a few tries — try for two notes, then for more.

Record yourself and see how you’re doing. Have someone with a good ear listen to you.

Once you’re better at singing a melody you’ll be able to look at that challenging section of a guitar solo. Hum it slowly and match the notes on the guitar.

It can also help you compose an original lead part or figure out what chords go behind a melody.

I once worked with a record producer who sang the bass player his notes (albeit in a different octave); we ended up with great arrangements.

Keep in mind that being able to sing doesn’t mean you have to be your band’s lead singer, it’s simply a tool.

6. Play music and not just scale exercises

If you’re a soccer player, you don’t want to spend hours kicking the ball into the net.

Yawn.

Same thing for guitar. Find a song you really want to learn and even if you can’t yet play all the riffs, slow it down and figure it out.

Or learn from one of the great teachers at JamPlay. Or, if you’re a songwriter, write a song you can hear in your head but can’t quite play. It’s one of the ways I became a better guitar player — I kept writing songs I couldn’t play.

Scales are still good but learning within the context of a song will make you remember why you picked up the guitar in the first place.

5. Learn to play slowly and in time

If I had a nickel for every time a student came to me and played too fast and with lots of mistakes, I could retire to a villa in the South of France and fly in Bonnie Raitt for private lessons.

When you play too fast, you’ll make mistakes.

Guaranteed.

And muscle memory is a pesky thing — your fingers will play those mistakes over and over again.

Play the piece slowly and correctly. Play it with a metronome on snail speed.

Once you’ve mastered that, kick it up a couple of notches. Play it again.

Keep playing it at increasing speed until the mistakes start to creep in, then stop. The next time you practice, do it again, starting at something slightly above the snail setting.

While I’m yammering on about rhythm, I’ll tell you that it’s important to play with a metronome.

No one wants to hear a guitarist who speeds up and slows down. Your fans will love you and your band’s drummer will quit throwing her sticks at you.

4. Learn songs in different keys

I once wrote a country song in the key of F, unusual for that genre (unless you’re playing with a capo). While I hated myself for the first few weeks, I got really good at a barred B flat.

Expanding your chord knowledge will make you a better player. No one wants to jam with a guitarist who can only play in C.

3. Don’t compare yourself to others

Everyone’s seen that video of the little Korean kids playing the complicated classical piece.

Don’t look at that and throw up your hands. You don’t know what torment those kids endured. And likewise, don’t watch a great Jeff Beck solo and think, Why even try? Maybe you should start on something more accessible.

There are lots of JamPlay videos that can help you with that. At some point, maybe you can tackle that Beck solo and if you don’t, the world won’t end. Pardon me while I give the special snowflake speech but you are unique. No one plays exactly like you.

2. Record your practice sessions and listen back to them

What we hear in our head is not always what actually comes out. If you’ve ever been in a recording studio, you’ll know what I’m talking about. I once recorded with a guitar player who was a half beat behind everyone else and we didn’t notice it until it was time to mix.

Expensive mistake.

If you record your practice sessions, especially if you can do it with a metronome, you can better evaluate your timing. It’ll also help you remember that improvised solo that was so good in the moment. And you can mark your progress.

Listen to that recording from six months ago and pat yourself on the back because you finally mastered those Stevie Ray Vaughan licks.

1. Learn something new every day

If you’ve been playing the Beatles for thirty years, it’s time to branch out, even if it’s learning one new chord.

Are you mostly a country player? Look up ninth chords. They’re fun and who knows, they might sound good in that Dolly Parton song you just learned.

Are you a rocker who can’t fingerpick? Learn one fingerpicking pattern. Just one. Practice it every day and soon, you’ll be playing “Blackbird.” And yeah, I’m back to the Beatles but maybe it’s time to try that new distortion pedal — what would “Blackbird” sound like with that?

All right, Hendrix Junior, follow these tips and quick coming to me and whining about talent. With enough sweat and stellar attitude, you’ll master whatever you want on the guitar.

About The Author:

When Jamie Anderson was fifteen, she memorized every chord in a Mel Bay songbook and then taught herself Joni Mitchell songs. Fast forward forty years and she’s still cranking out tunes, from “Smells Like Teen Spirit” to “The A Team” as well as original songs. After touring for thirteen years, she settled in Ottawa, Canada, where she teaches and writes. www.jamieanderson.com

Go Gently Into The World Of Barre Chords

Quick! Play a G sharp chord. I’ll wait …

It’s easy to come up with a G chord but sharp chords can be more elusive unless you know barre chords.

shutterstock_93901978Before you run screaming from the room, stay with me.

Barre chords are gifts from the gods and they can really benefit your playing. And it’s like anything else with guitar – start slowly, practice, and keep an open mind.

I’m a 58 year old woman with arthritis and I can play a barre chord. Not to shame anyone but if I can do it, so can you.

Follow this list and I guarantee before long you’ll be making barre chords like a rock star.

1. Pick out a song you already know that has a G chord (we’ll deal with that sharp chord later). You probably already know this G chord – it’s an open chord:

Gmajor

Now we’ll move on to a G barre chord. Here’s the shape. You’ll notice it looks like an E chord only you’re using your index finger like a capo. Put this shape on the third fret:

Gbarre

2. At first, the barre chord will sound like crap. Be okay with crap. Be one with the crap because eventually, your hand will become stronger and more flexible and that chord will sound clear.

(NOTE: Want to learn the 10 barre chord shapes that unlock thousands of songs on guitar? Get JamPlay’s Barre Chord Cheat Sheet here for free!)

 

3. Now play that song with the G. Every time that chord rolls around, play the barre chord. It may take you a few seconds to get the shape, just breathe and do it. It’s not super hero time – you don’t have to play the entire song with barre chords, just the G.

4. It may be uncomfortable but it shouldn’t hurt. If it does hurt, stop and play something else for a while, then go back to it. If it still hurts, go pet the dog, read your email, and try again. Breaks are good, especially when you’re asking your hands to do something they’ve never done.

5. Practice. Rinse and repeat.

6. Now to that G sharp – use the same shape and move it to the fourth fret. Voila! G sharp. It works for lots of other chords, too.

Gsharpmajor

7. You can also do cool muting and other rhythm tricks with barre chords.

Jim Deeming explains how to play barre chords with very little finger pressure in this video:

If you want more help with barre chords download our free barre chord cheat sheet and learn the 10 shapes that every beginner guitar player must know. These chord shapes unlock thousands of songs on guitar because you can play 120 chords with just 10 shapes. Grab it for free here.

Now go to it, rock star.

About The Author:

When Jamie Anderson was fifteen, she memorized every chord in a Mel Bay songbook and then taught herself Joni Mitchell songs. Fast forward forty years and she’s still cranking out tunes, from “Smells Like Teen Spirit” to “The A Team” as well as original songs. After touring for thirteen years, she settled in Ottawa, Canada, where she teaches and writes. www.jamieanderson.com

Barre Chords Unlock 1000’s Of Songs On Guitar

(NOTE: Learn the 10 barre chord shapes that every beginner guitar player must know. These chord shapes unlock thousands of songs on guitar because you can play 120 chords with just 10 shapes. Grab it for free here.)

Quick! Play a G sharp chord. I’ll wait …

It’s easy to come up with a G chord but sharp chords can be tricky unless you know barre chords.

In fact, barre chords make it possible to play hundreds of tricky chords using only a handful of easy to learn chord shapes.

But there is a downside.

If you’ve ever tried to play barre chords before, you probably noticed the finger pain that can happen. And you’ve probably struggled to get a clean sound too.

It can be pretty frustrating. You might even consider giving up on learning them.

Barre Chords are frustrating.

But, before you run screaming from the room, stay with me.

Barre chords are gifts from the gods and they can really benefit your playing. And it’s like anything else with guitar – start slowly, practice, and keep an open mind.

I’m a 58 year old woman with arthritis and I can play a barre chord. Not to shame anyone but if I can do it, so can you.

Do this and you’ll be playing barre chords like a rock star in no time.

1. Pick out a song you already know that has a G chord (we’ll deal with that sharp chord later). You probably already know this G chord – it’s an open chord:

Gmajor

Now we’ll move on to a G barre chord. Here’s the shape. You’ll notice it looks like an E chord only you’re using your index finger like a capo. Put this shape on the third fret:

Gbarre

2. At first, the barre chord will sound like crap. Be okay with crap. Be one with the crap because eventually, your hand will become stronger and more flexible and that chord will sound clear.

Here’s a short lesson on how to play barre chords with very little finger pressure:

3. Now play that song with the G. Every time that chord rolls around, play the barre chord. It may take you a few seconds to get the shape, just breathe and do it. It’s not super hero time – you don’t have to play the entire song with barre chords, just the G.

4. It may be uncomfortable but it shouldn’t hurt. If it does hurt, stop and play something else for a while, then go back to it. If it still hurts, go pet the dog, read your email, and try again. Breaks are good, especially when you’re asking your hands to do something they’ve never done.

5. Practice. Rinse and repeat.

Gsharpmajor

6. Now to that G sharp – use the same shape and move it to the fourth fret. Voila! G sharp. It works for lots of other chords, too. Now go to it, rock star.

(NOTE: Want to learn the 10 barre chord shapes that unlock thousands of songs on guitar? Get JamPlay’s Barre Chord Cheat Sheet here for free!)

 

About The Author:

When Jamie Anderson was fifteen, she memorized every chord in a Mel Bay songbook and then taught herself Joni Mitchell songs. Fast forward forty years and she’s still cranking out tunes, from “Smells Like Teen Spirit” to “The A Team” as well as original songs. After touring for thirteen years, she settled in Ottawa, Canada, where she teaches and writes. www.jamieanderson.com

Is This The Fastest Way To Learn New Strumming Patterns?

Strumming is important, whether you’re a country song slinger or a metal goddess.

That one-size-fits-all strum was good enough to start with but dude, you’ll put your jam group to sleep and forget about that open mike.

With the same strum pattern every song will sound alike, from Hank Williams to KISS. Start on a path to guitar stardom by learning a variety of solid strum patterns.

Here are some strumming pattern tips:

1. Pick one strumming pattern from this handy guide and play it over and over. And over. And over — until it’s so automatic that you’ll wake up in the middle of the night, dreaming that you’re Eric Clapton, or at least, his younger sibling.

2. Plug this strum into a favorite song. Make sure that it’s a 4/4 song (more on that below). It doesn’t matter how the original artist plays it. If your strumming hand is solid, you’ll sound confident and that’s half the battle.

3. Now learn another strum. Again, practice. And practice. Every time you walk into the room, you must pick up your guitar and play that strum or a death star will destroy the earth.

4. Once you feel confident, put that strum into the SAME song. Sounds different, right? Better, right? That’s how it’s done. Even if you know three chords, you can make every song sound exciting and different, simply by changing the strumming pattern.

5. You know what I’m going to write next … learn a third strum. And put it in the same song.

6. Now that you know three strumming patterns, go back and try them in different songs.

A few more tips, now that you are master of the strumming universe:

A. Most songs in the rock, pop, country, and folk universe use a 4/4 time so most of the strumming patterns in this guide will work.

B. If the strumming pattern you’ve chosen doesn’t fit, it could be that you’re trying to squeeze a 4/4 pattern into a 3/4 song. Ask Cinderella’s stepsisters how well that worked. Without yammering on about theory, just know that not every strum in this handy guide will work for every song. Songs in 3/4 time (also known as waltz time) include “House of the Rising Sun” (Animals), “Hallelujah” (Jeff Buckley), “Norwegian Wood” (Beatles), “Natural Woman” (Carole King), and “Rebel Waltz” (The Clash). Sign up for lessons at JamPlay and you can learn some 3/4 strums.

C. If you’re right-handed and you play a guitar with the headstock to the left, you’re strumming with your dominant hand. Likewise if you’re a leftie and you strum with your left hand, the headstock to your right. So, learning different strums shouldn’t be too much of a stretch because you’re using your dominant hand. As long as you practice, you’re good to go. Even if you’re a leftie who plays with the headstock to the left, you’re still using both of your hands. It’s not like using a fork where only your dominant hand is doing the work.

D. A pick will give you a strong and crisp sound. Or, you can play with your bare fingers and get a softer sound that’s great for ballads. More choices. More diversity.

E. Don’t stop at three strums. There are many more in this great guide.

Now, look at all the choices you have!

Impress your friends, your date, and your mama. You know lots of strumming patterns, played with a pick or your fingers, and even though you’ve only got three chords under your guitar strap, every song will sound like you should be on TV.

Learn more chords and that’s even better. Lessons at JamPlay will help you with that.

About The Author:

When Jamie Anderson was fifteen, she memorized every chord in a Mel Bay songbook and then taught herself Joni Mitchell songs. Fast forward forty years and she’s still cranking out tunes, from “Smells Like Teen Spirit” to “The A Team” as well as original songs. After touring for thirteen years, she settled in Ottawa, Canada, where she teaches and writes. www.jamieanderson.com