Staff Picks: The JamPlay Team's Favorite Courses

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Our staff members have a unique perspective on the many courses in the JamPlay catalog. Most of us are guitar players — so we have opinions, likes, dislikes, and favorites just like you do. Here are three Staff Picks that we think you’ll enjoy.

FROM ALEX:

I’ve known Tyler Grant for years. We’ve done a number of shows together throughout my career as a touring bassist, and I was always struck by Tyler’s immense versatility, virtuosic playing and  incredible improvisational abilities. Tyler’s “Jamming in a Jam Band” course is informative, easy to follow, and most importantly — tons of fun.

If your influences on guitar include the likes of Jerry Garcia, Warren Haynes or Trey Anastasio, this is a must-watch. Tyler starts with the essential basics and carries you all the way through to being able to jam with the best. Definitely check it out!

FROM AARON:
Not everyone struggles with barre chords but for those who do, it’s really demotivating. We had quite a few members mentioning barre chords as a pain point so I reached out to Dave Isaacs to see about doing a course to help solve this problem. Dave, in my opinion, really hit it out of the park with 28 short lessons that gradually build the ability to play barre chords clearly and without “death grip”.

It’s been so rewarding to read the comments on the lessons and hear about the breakthroughs people are having. If you avoid barre chords or maybe you play them but tire out quickly, check this course out.

FROM CLAIRE:
The Power of 3 Notes combines painless music theory with practical exercises to help you play triads and more in different inversions up and down the neck (chords, arpeggios, colored chords, etc.).

Horace’s instruction is great! Clear, just the right pace, friendly — it just makes sense! I found that practicing the exercises has really opened up my fluidity so I don’t have to “think” so hard about what and where to play.

JamPlay is home to more than 500,000 guitarists with guitar lessons from world class instructor artists in every genre and for every interest to power up your guitar skill. Join at JamPlay.com.


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Practicing Barre Chords Like a Pro

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Barre chords are hard to get the hang of. Even though you are a semi-experienced guitar player, who has been practicing for months, you will find that barre chords are a whole new can of worms. They take strong fingers/hands, laser precision, and extensive knowledge to master the skill. 

If you have been practicing barre chords with no luck, don’t give up. Everything is challenging when you first learn it. It’s part of the fun, right? And I’m going to give you the tips and tricks to make sure conquering barre chords is as easy as possible. 

Capos 

Capos benefit by helping your understanding— which will help you with execution. 

Think of a capo like your finger. An Em chord with a capo on the first fret is making an F sound. An Am shape with a capo on the second fret is really a Bm. In fact, many songs use capos to avoid playing barre chords. This may seem rudimentary but understanding this will have you well on your way. Explore this free video lesson to improve your use of capos. 

Mindset 

Let’s get one thing straight though, barre chords do take strong fingers. Merely doing finger/hand workouts is not going to help you play barre chords. For example, you have probably seen grip exercisers in music stores with the promise that they will significantly help you, but they won’t. The only way to practice barre chords is by playing them. 

Muscle memory is so important when playing guitar. If you just work out your hands– while they may be stronger– you have really made no progress with barre chords. But playing them will increase both strength and muscle memory, so get there and stay. Don’t fall into the trap. Just because you can’t hold a barre chord now doesn’t mean that you need to start taking your hand to the gym. Just keep playing them and you will be nailing them in no time! Learn from this free video lesson, Barre Chords: The Mindset & The Principles of Success

Technique 

Now that we got the mindset out of the way, we can talk about the best way to execute a barre chord. 

First tip: Don’t play a barre chord with a flat finger. The inside of your hand is soft and cushiony so it will take much longer to be able to play one. Instead, use the side of your finger. It’s much harder which cuts down the amount of strength you need to use.

Second tip: Use your strumming arm to push the guitar towards your body. This way your hand isn’t doing all the heavy lifting. 

Third tip: Lower your thumb to the middle of the neck. Naturally, your thumb will be at the top of the guitar neck when playing basic chords (G, A, D, etc.). But playing a barre chord like that is nearly impossible. Lower it to the middle to make them as easy as possible. 

Remember to keep at it! Everyone struggles with barre chords. You’re not alone. Once you get it, nothing can stop you.

JamPlay is home to more than 500,000 guitarists with guitar lessons from world class instructor artists in every genre and for every interest to power up your guitar skill. Join at JamPlay.com.


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Create Your Practice Space: Musical Environment Matters

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When we think about music, we think sound. But what plays the sound? The instrument. And what plays the instrument? The musician. But what plays the musician? The space.

To transform a space into a place is to combine the physical with meaning, and then experience and interact with that meaning. This might sound a bit too “out” but remember, music is just vibrations in the air translated into electrical signals in the brain.

The mindful musician can create a place and harness its effects and use them the same way a guitarist uses a pedal board, or an organ player uses their stops. For performing musicians this is a must-have ability, and for practicing or private musicians it is just as vital. 

Your practice space can either help or harm you on your path to building a relationship with your instrument and your music. To help you on your way, I want to share a few thoughts I’ve had over the years while trying to transform spaces into places.

On Bedrooms

Virtually everyone starts out practicing in their bedroom. It makes sense. Your bedroom is your most personal, inner sanctum. It’s where you keep your things and it’s where you keep yourself.

Likewise you are surrounded by distractions, i.e. the things in your life that aren’t music. Your bedroom is already a place, you’re just adding music to it. Now this isn’t the end of the world, provided you can discipline yourself and keep the distractions at bay while you practice.

Get rid of your phone. Turn it off. Put it in another room. Bury it in your backyard. I don’t care, just get rid of it. If you use your laptop to practice (as I do), don’t fall down a Youtube rabbit hole watching music theory videos and band documentaries. Those videos are great for getting inspired but if they’re cutting into your practice time or serving as sources of procrastination, cut them out. You’d be better served spending quality time with a metronome and practicing the songs and concepts you’re trying to master. 

TL;DR discipline is key if you’re practicing in your bedroom.

On Basements/Garages

These two spaces share a lot in common. They’re both separated from the normal functions of a house. They’re both quintessential “hobby-zones.” They’re both where people go to work on their passions.

Just about every band in the last 50 years got their start in a basement or a garage. There are whole genres and albums built around that aesthetic (@ The Basement Tapes). I distinctly remember being 16 years old, just starting out on bass, playing awful covers of Nirvana and Radiohead in my friend’s dark, unfinished basement.

It was glorious.

But what basements and garages lack in distraction they make up for in their atmosphere. Unless you’re really into grunge or doom metal (and hey, all power to you) a cave-like, serial killer atmosphere probably isn’t the greatest place for your creativity to thrive. 

But this really has to do with your mindset as a practicing musician. Are you going to the basement/garage to work, or to play? If you’re treating these spaces as a place of “responsibility escape,” you’ll have a great time; but you’ll also be taking away responsibility for your music, so be mindful.

On The Band Room

For you lucky souls that have had the opportunity to dedicate four walls or more to music, I salute you. There is no space more hallowed in the world of music than the band room

It can be as large as a concert hall and it can be a glorified closet. It can be a cramped attic loft and it can be an unused classroom. It can be an outdoor amphitheater and it can be a street corner. As long as it belongs to the music while you’re there, it’s the band room

Unless you’re a weird hermit-monk (you know who you are and I’m looking at you), you’re going to make most of your progress as a musician with other musicians. So having a proper place for your band to practice and be comfortable practicing in, is crucial to becoming a better player and a better band.

Use common sense, or don’t, whatever works for you. If you’re playing metal, put some Iron Maiden posters up. If you’re playing psychedelic rock, put up a tie-dye tapestry and some cool lights (cool lights are a necessity, more important than amplifiers and talent combined). If you’re playing jazz, put up a Jackson Pollock painting and pretend like you know what you’re doing.

On Your Mind

The saddest fact of life is that no place is permanent. If you’re a touring musician you’ll be practicing in planes, trains, and automobiles. If you’re a student you’ll be practicing in deserted dorm hallways and study lounges. If you’re a human being you’ll be practicing in spaces you might have never expected to find yourself in.

The goal of turning a practice space into a practice place is to encourage an inner state of comfort and discipline, of freedom and direction, that you can carry around with you. That place in your head can be an imagined location, a mantra, or the memory of a feeling that you keep bottled up inside your mind like water from a sacred river. The point is if you have that place within you at all times, you’ll always be able to practice diligently and deliberately. When James Hetfield worked in a factory in L.A.,  he practiced out in his car on his lunch breaks. During shows, John Coltrane would go play his saxophone in the bathroom in between sets. Where were they practicing?

You who drum constantly on your school desk, who play scales on your guitar in bed while you’re falling asleep, who practice slapping and popping motions for bass on every surface imaginable, you are accessing a practice place more real and more integral to your musicianship than any physical location on earth. You’re accessing yourself.

JamPlay is home to more than 500,000 guitarists with guitar lessons from world class instructor artists in every genre and for every interest to power up your guitar skill. Join at JamPlay.com.


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Play Outside of the Box With Open Tunings

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Standard tuning is, well, standard. It provides incredible versatility and simplicity, but if it is the only tuning you use it can quickly start to get boring.

Luckily, you don’t have to be boxed in by standard tuning. There is a nearly infinite combination of open tunings that will enhance your creativity while providing new challenges (but not too many) that will keep you entertained– especially after a long winter of working in the same tuning.

Open Tunings 101

Here is everything you need to know to start learning open tunings.

To be able to play in an open tuning, you first need to understand what one is. Essentially, an open tuning is when you tune your guitar in a way that forms a full chord without pressing any of the strings. For example, in open D tuning (D, A, D, F#, A, D) just strumming your guitar makes a D chord.

Open tunings are traditionally used in blues and folk music, especially when playing slide
guitar. But these beautiful tunings aren’t limited to those uses. Legendary artists like Joni Mitchell, Led Zeppelin, and many more regularly incorporated open tunings in their music, and so can you.

There is a clear downside to open tunings: they will significantly shorten the lifespan of your strings. It depends on how frequently you change tunings, but if you don’t want to be constantly changing strings I suggest staying in your preferred open tuning for an extended amount of time. If you are constantly switching back-and-forth between tunings, you will have to invest more money than you would probably like to in strings. 

Check out this free intro lesson on open tunings from Yvette Young.


Relearning Chords 

Obviously, if the tuning is different, so are chord shapes. You will have to invest time into relearning. Although chord variations will definitely take time and dedication to remember, the beginner chords are normally fairly easy to pick up, as you just need to barre the correct fret. 

Take open D for example, playing the guitar open is a D chord. After D is E, so if you barre the second fret, you are now playing an E major. After E is F, so move that barre to the 3rd fret to play an F major.

F is followed by G, meaning barring the 5th fret will be a G major. Reset, now we are at A, and all you have to do is move to the 7th fret. So on, and so forth. This applies to every open tuning! Just start at whatever chord is open, and move through it as I did in the above example. It’s a great place to start and will make playing variations much easier.

Slide 

As I mentioned earlier, slide guitar is what open tunings are traditionally used for. It makes playing simple chords much easier with the slide, as changing chords is as easy as sliding your finger up and down the guitar.

Though slide is mostly used in blues music, it can be incorporated into any genre of music. But before you get started on that creative journey, starting with blues style slide guitar is the easiest way to build a foundation that you can build off of. 

JamPlay has an amazing free blues slide lesson, that is the perfect place for all guitar players to start!

So, what are you waiting for? Get that guitar in an open tuning and enjoy!

JamPlay is home to more than 500,000 guitarists with guitar lessons from world class instructor artists in every genre and for every interest to power up your guitar skill. Join at JamPlay.com.


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Bends, Slides & Hammer Ons

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After a long stretch working on your guitar skills, you finally feel like you are starting to understand the guitar. But the guitar isn’t like riding a bike– if you get away from plucking those six strings, you will lose those months of hard work. 

You have to be especially careful of this with bends, slides, and hammer ons. These are advanced concepts, so they’ll be the first to go if you let your foot off the gas. No need to fret– this simple guide will teach you everything you need to know.

Understanding Scales and Arpeggios 

If you are fairly new to the world of bends, slides, hammer ons this is the place you want to start. A thorough understanding of scales and arpeggios is crucial.

If you don’t know already (or are only vaguely familiar) a scale is just an organized sequence of notes that help guitarists create riffs, solos, and chord progressions.

You’ve probably heard of some of the basic ones, like the Minor Pentatonic scale. An arpeggio is similar to a scale, except it breaks a chord into individual notes. For example, a C Major chord is made up of the notes C, G, E. To play a C Major arpeggio, play C, G, E, C in that order. 

Groupings are also a crucial concept to grasp. Let JamPlay instructor Lance Ruby show you how in this free lesson, Getting It Under Our Fingers.

Riffing 

Now that you have a solid understanding of scales and arpeggios, you are ready to start riffing. Speaking from personal experience, riffing is one of the most fun and rewarding parts of playing guitar, no matter what genre of music you prefer. 

But just because you understand what makes up a riff doesn’t mean you will be able to just lay a killer one down. It takes more than just notes, you also need to have supreme timing, speed, and finger dexterity to nail it.

Lucky for you, I have some tips to have slaying riffs in no time. 

Only experienced guitarists can improv successfully, so take time to plan out what you want your riff to sound like. I know the silence can be daunting, but don’t be afraid it’s a part of the creative process. 

Also, don’t be afraid to use riffs from your favorite songs as inspiration. Your first few riffs aren’t going to make it out of your bedroom (or wherever you’re practicing) anyway. And, though it may not feel entirely satisfying, it’s the perfect place to start. You will be working on timing, speed, and finger dexterity while forming your own unique sound. 

JamPlay has a great free video lesson, Interpretation, that will show you exactly how to make an existing piece of music your own.

My Finger’s Hurt, Help!

Here is your warning, all of this practice will hurt your fingers; It’s a part of playing guitar. Of course, your fingers will get used to heavy playing,
but no one enjoys burning, aching fingers. So, here is how to avoid as much pain as possible. 

The easiest way to avoid finger pain is to keep your nails short. This is actually a double whammy as it will decrease pain and increase accuracy because your fingernails will no longer be getting in the way.  Scheduling breaks while you play is another great way to keep your fingers from hurting too much. This will give you time to plan out your next riff. Lastly, ease up on the guitar strings a little bit. Pressure is required, but you shouldn’t be pressing so hard that your fingers turn white. Following these steps should have you well on your way to making the most of spring and mastering yet another guitar concept. 

JamPlay is home to more than 500,000 guitarists with guitar lessons from world class instructor artists in every genre and for every interest to power up your guitar skill. Join at JamPlay.com.


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Fuel Your Guitar Love. Explore New Styles.

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It’s never easy falling out of love. It can be hard to face the reality that the excitement just isn’t there anymore. The same holds for your relationship with your guitar. If you find yourself getting bored and spending less and less time with your six-stringed beauty it may be because there isn’t anything to keep the relationship exciting and fresh.

To keep the intimacy going with your guitar you’ve got to spice things up! If you find that your usual routine with your instrument is pushing you away from it, it’s time for new ideas, experiences, and approaches.

Here are 4 styles you can start learning that will help you fall back in love with your guitar.

Rock Guitar

Rock guitar is considered by many guitarists to be one of the easiest styles to learn. This style of playing doesn’t require the same level of theory comprehension you’d find in jazz or classical. Yet, from the 1950s onward Rock n Roll took over the music scene with its overwhelming popularity. 

Don’t let the simplicity fool you… Rock music utilizes power chords and riffs.

These are relatively simple concepts that have endless applications. This is a great style to learn because you can start at any level and develop a keen understanding without the challenges that come with other styles. It’s also a ton of fun to play along to songs by rock staples like Led Zeppelin and ACDC!

Here’s an introduction to chordal riffs and how they are used in rock music. Explore JamPlay’s guitarist toolkits. 

Country Guitar
Country music is a genre of music that finds its roots in different styles like bluegrass, blues, rock, and jazz. Learning the concepts behind country guitar can bring gratification to your guitar playing because of its rhythmic focus and theory.

Often considered overhyped, don’t be fooled by the theoretical understanding of music and technical ability this genre can have on your guitar playing.

And let’s not forget that country guitar has some of the best licks you can learn!

 Learn how how major and minor pentatonic scale can be used in genres like country with this video lesson from JamPlay. 

Fingerstyle Guitar

Fingerstyle guitar is one of the most unique approaches to guitar out there. If you are used to having a pick in your hand and want to try something completely new fingerstyle is a great way to revolutionize your playing.

With this style, you use your fingers to play rhythm and melody simultaneously. This is something that can be incredibly challenging to do with a pick because of its limitations.

This approach turns the guitar into a completely different instrument and can get your creative juices flowing.

Check out this basic right-hand fingerstyle technique to get you started.

Blues Guitar

This is a style that played a significant role in western guitar. Learning blues guitar can help you develop your understanding of music theory and improve your improvisational skills. If you so dare this you’ll find unique chord progressions and rhythms that you’ll be able to use as a canvas to showcase your knowledge of the fretboard.

Yes, this style can be a little daunting but if you’re willing to give it a shot getting the fundamentals down can be a rewarding experience for you and your guitar.

Ready to take on the blues? Check out this JamPlay lesson on adding chord tones. 

JamPlay is home to more than 500,000 guitarists with guitar lessons from world class instructor artists in every genre and for every interest to power up your guitar skill. Join at JamPlay.com.


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5 Techniques to Make Your Guitar Playing More Expressive

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If learning guitar is one of your main goals or you’re getting back into it it’s important to get the  fundamental techniques of playing down. From fingering chords to strumming rhythms to picking individual notes, making music with the guitar is becoming a reality. As you continue to develop as a player, here are some techniques you can use to make your playing more expressive.

Palm-muting

Palm-muting can give your playing a percussive quality that works well in a variety of music genres, from the distortion-driven chugging of heavy metal to the percussive rhythms of acoustic rock. This technique involves lightly resting the bottom of your palm on your strumming hand down on the strings close to the neck. The goal is to lightly deaden the sound when you strum but not completely. 

Palm-muting reduces the sustain of the strings, creating a muffled staccato sound when you strum. This sounds especially well when you’re playing power chords, but it can be used to spice up your lead playing as well. The closer to the bridge your palm rests, the more sustain you’ll allow from each strum. As you move further away from the bridge, the sound becomes deadened. Even though palm-muting adds more expressiveness to your playing, it’s a relatively easy technique to begin experimenting with. It’s also a technique that fits well with acoustic or electric guitar styles.

Take a look at this video lesson from JamPlay on Palm-muting. Explore the many ways that JamPlay can help you improve your technique to become a more expressive guitar player.

Pick-raking

Closely related to palm-muting, pick-raking also adds some percussive spice to your playing. Pick-raking, however, has less to do with muffling the sounds of notes played and is more about deadening the pitch of a string entirely. Instead of using your pick hand to mute the strings, you’ll use the fingers of your fretting hand. The idea is to play two or three muted strings followed by an unmuted note in quick succession. This creates a percussive click sound just before the note sounds. 

For example, you might lightly rest your index finger against the 4th and 3rd strings while fretting a note with your middle finger on the 2nd string. Quickly strumming through the 4th, 3rd, then 2nd string adds some spice to the note played on the 2nd string because of the clicks of the 4th and 3rd strings immediately before. This technique is typically used by lead guitar players in a variety of genres, from country to blues.

Bends

Few techniques create more expression and more emotional resonance in a guitarist’s playing than string bending. A staple of any lead guitar player’s toolkit, string bends create a lyrical quality to your playing. Instead of plucking individual notes one at a time, string bends allow you to seamlessly slur two or more notes one after the other. 

To play a bend, finger a note on any string, preferably the higher four strings over the lower two, and after plucking the note, use your fretting finger to push the string up toward the string next to it. This causes the note to rise in pitch without requiring a second plucking of the string. Bending can be tricky to master because you have to learn the feel for how far to bend a note. There are half-step bends, whole-step bends, and even whole-and-a-half-step bends, and you have to practice a lot to get the feel of each.

Explore string bending with this video lesson from JamPlay.

Vibrato

Vibrato adds character and expression to your notes and gives personality to your overall playing. In fact, vibrato mimics the qualities of a singing human voice and makes individual notes stand out. Along with string bending, vibrato is a common technique in any lead guitar player’s arsenal. 

To give your notes vibrato, you can either rock your finger back and forth to create a wobbly sound in the note, or you can subtly and rapidly bend the note up and down on the fret. This technique works best with the sustain of a distortion-driven guitar.

Harmonics

Whenever you play any note on the guitar, the sound you’re hearing is called the fundamental note. For example, if you play the note on the 5th fret of the 6th string, you’ll hear an A note. But on top of that A note are several overtones or harmonics that you don’t hear because they’re mixed in with the fundamental note. Guitar is a unique instrument because you have the ability to isolate those harmonics. 

Natural harmonics sound out when you lightly place a finger on the string over certain frets and pluck the string. The easiest natural harmonic you can play is on the 12th fret, but there are also natural harmonics on the 5th and 7th frets.

Artificial harmonics can be played by fretting a note and using your pick hand index finger to lightly touch the string roughly 12 frets above the fretted note and picking the string. Harmonics are an expressive technique that can be a challenge to master, but they create some interesting opportunities for sound exploration.

Watch this JamPlay video lesson to learn more about harmonics. 

JamPlay is home to more than 500,000 guitarists with guitar lessons from world class instructor artists in every genre and for every interest to power up your guitar skill. Join at JamPlay.com.


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A Guide to Bass Amps: The Dos and Don'ts

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The greatest and most embarrassing mistakes I have made as a bassist all revolve around bass amps and cabinets. Some of these mistakes were due to good old fashioned stupidity, but most were the results of a painful ignorance concerning how bass amps actually work. Learn from my mistakes, it’ll save you a lot of money and heartache down the road.

Terminology to Know

It’s super important to understand the vocabulary around bass amplifiers because being able to read a manual is the difference between a functioning amp and a broken amp.

So let’s clear up what exactly an amp is. Basically (no pun intended) an amp amplifies your signal which is then sent into a cabinet which houses the speakers that project that signal into the grateful ears of a listener. Most low wattage, beginner/intermediate bass amps combine these two aspects together: amplifier and cabinet, into one piece of gear: The Combo Amp.

Combo amps are great for rehearsal spaces, small shows, and people tired of hauling around speaker cabinets. They’re reliable, easy to use, and sturdy, and have earned their reputation as the beloved pieces of equipment that they are. The other option for bass amplifiers, as you might have guessed, is a separate cabinet and amplifier, more commonly known as: The Head and Cab

The separate head and cabinet option is super versatile, allowing knowledgeable bassists to customize their rig for many different performance scenarios. HOWEVER, you must have a solid knowledge of how amps and cabinets work if you want to avoid breaking your gear. Here are three factors that I ignored when first venturing into the head and cab setup that wound up giving me broken, useless, equipment. Let me be the cautionary tale.

Ohmage

This symbol Ω is the law of the land when it comes to bass amplifiers. It measures resistance in terms of the current flowing from your amp into your cabinet. Most bass amps are rated at either 4 Ω, 8 Ω, or 16 Ω. The higher the ohmage, the higher resistance your amp will safely operate at. 

Cabinets are also rated in ohms, which tells you how much resistance the cabinets put up to your Amps signal. If your amp head is rated at 8 Ω and you send that signal into your cabinet rated at 8 Ω, everything’s going to be okay. If your amp head is rated at 8 Ω and you send it into a cabinet rated at 4 Ω, you’re playing with the wrath of God. \

Nowadays modern amps can usually handle 8 Ω or 4 Ω, which means you can pair that amp head with a 4 Ω cabinet OR two 8 Ω cabinets. When you pair two cabinets together, their total ohmage is halved in proportion to their individual ohmage. I know this is starting to sound like a math problem, because it is! So basically, two 8 Ω cabinets = 4 Ω total resistance. 

If this sounds confusing, that’s because it is. So unless you’re an expert in audio technology, just match the ohmage of your amp with your cabinet. Remember, before you buy gear or experiment with gear, READ THE MANUALS. Unless you’re using some rare vintage equipment, gear manuals are easily found on their manufacturer’s website.

Wattage

The W is not as unforgiving as the Ω but it must still be feared and respected. Wattage is quite a bit easier to understand than ohmage. Your amp’s wattage rating is a lot like horsepower in your car, and typically it denotes the maximum amount of power your amp can produce. Some manufacturers, I won’t name names, lie about their wattage the same way car manufacturers lie about how much horsepower their newest sport model makes.

Cabinets also have wattage ratings which refer to how much power they can handle coursing through their veins. Just like with ohmage you want to match your cab and head. For example, send a 250 watt head into a 250 watt cab. Now, you do have a bit of leeway here. Technically, you can send a higher wattage head into a lower wattage cabinet and not damage it if played at low volumes, but if the difference in wattage is substantial I wouldn’t risk it.

Likewise you can send a lower wattage head into a higher wattage cabinet, but you do run the risk of underpowering the speakers which can definitely damage them, especially if the difference in wattage is substantial i.e. more than 50 watts.

As with ohmage, if you’re unsure, READ THE MANUAL.

If you’re in the market for a new amp and you’re wondering how powerful of an amp you need, think about your circumstances. If you’re playing with a half-deaf drummer and you want to be heard, I’d recommend at least 100 watts. But it’s more about being heard, it’s about sounding good.

If you have to crank your volume to 10 (never a good idea, jokes aside), you’re going to get an ugly, distorted sound. If that’s what you want, great! But generally I would advise that you buy an amplifier which, in any given situation from band rehearsal to live shows, you never have to push past 60% to 70%.

Speaker Cables

Now we come to the most shameful of all mistakes I have made with bass gear. I have made this mistake not once, but two times! On the back of your amp head, there’s a jack for a cable that will send your amp’s signal into the cabinet. DO NOT use some ¼ inch instrument cable to connect these two pieces of equipment. ¼ inch instrument cables are shielded, they have more resistance because they carry your bass’ small pickup signal to the amp which then makes it MUCH larger. 

If you use another shielded instrument cable to carry that amplified signal to your cabinet, it will be like creating an LA traffic jam in your amplifier. Does that sound like a good thing? No. So use an unshielded speaker cable, they’re just as cheap as shielded ¼ inch cables and found in any respectable music store.

If this is all too much to deal with, buy a combo amp. Fact of the matter is, if you want to play electric music, you have to become an electrician. My final piece of advice is this: don’t take chances with your gear. It costs nothing to look up your equipment’s specs in the manual, it costs hundreds of dollars to replace or repair broken amplifiers and speakers. You learn best from failure, so learn from mine. READ THE MANUAL! 

Mastered your gear and ready for more? Become a member at JamPlay.com and get your free Bass Essentials Player Toolkit.  Challenging and engaging exercises for bass players of all skill levels, with lessons designed to maximize your fretboard knowledge, improve your chord comprehension, and hone your dexterity on the instrument. Explore bass guitar through the lens of both blues and rock music — from classic blues to classic rock, psychedelic rock, grunge rock and more. 

JamPlay is home to more than 500,000 guitarists with guitar lessons from world class instructor artists in every genre and for every interest to power up your guitar skill. Join at JamPlay.com.


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Learn to Play This Classic Love Song on Guitar

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It’s February! The month we celebrate all things love. Looking for a way to express your guitar love to your love? Lucky for you, we have the answer: take those guitar skills and strum your special someone a love song. 

Let’s go through all the skills and steps necessary so you can impress your boo with a modern twist on the classic “I Love You Truly” by Carrie Jacobs-Bond. 

How To Play “I Love You Truly”

This classic song has been covered by so many famous artists, but we are loving a variation of a version done by Connie Francis. 

To play this version on your guitar you will need to have the basic chords down. There is one barre chord, Cm, but that is by far the toughest part of the song. The other chords are C, G, Am, E, and F (which is technically a barre chord, but you can play it without barring the 1st fret).

Here’s a quick guide to help you know what to play, when:

How to Read the Guide

Reading the guide is simple and you will pick it up in no time. 

  1. Listen to the song so you can hear the basic rhythm of the song. 
  2. The chord you are supposed to play is over the corresponding lyric in the song. For example, you start playing a C chord, but once the lyric truly starts you will switch to an F chord. 
  3. Don’t get frustrated if it’s hard to read and play at the same time. All you have to do is take it line-by-line until you know it by heart. 
  4. That’s it! If you’re at this step you have successfully learned the song from the guide. Great job!

Practice Your Skills 

We get it! This part is a bit bland. But trust us, the more of a foundation you have and the more comfortable you are with playing, the easier mastering this song for your better half will be. 

Barre Chords: At this point, you know the basic chords, but what about that pesky barre chord. JamPlay has a step-by-step video to follow so you can master playing that Cm– or any other chord for that matter!

Playing and Singing: You won’t get away with not singing these wonderful lyrics to your partner, so you will have to know how to play and sing at the same time. It can be tricky, but no need to worry because JamPlay has a 15 lesson toolkit that makes it easy!

Have fun! This is the most important skill of all to work on. Remember that it doesn’t have to be perfect; it’s the thought that counts. Even if it’s not perfect, if you follow this guide and play, we know it will be perfect for them.

Head on over to JamPlay and learn the skills you need to to fire up your guitar love. 


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Using JamTracks To Inspire Your Practice Routine

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As most self-taught musicians know, finding quality backing tracks to practice your soloing and accompaniment on can be a major hassle. I have spent countless cumulative hours scouring Youtube looking for a backing track with the right “feel” and, if I’m lucky, in the right key. 

Fortunately for us, Jamplay has the widest and most diverse selection of backing tracks that I’ve ever seen on one site. When I first tried out their JamTracks in Tools, I was blown away with the sheer quantity of tracks. I felt like a kid in a candy store and I had to try them all.

At first I just flitted around the list, mostly selecting by the names of the tracks (I think Amish Funk is what first got my attention). The tracks themselves are usually about five minutes long and far from your typical four-bar loops. These backing tracks have layered, constantly evolving accompaniment that will force you to listen! You’re not playing over some mindless drones. There’s actual musical topography for you to explore and react to for any genre.

Better yet, there’s even an added transcription of the tracks if you want to dive deep into the theory of what you’re playing over. The transcription includes the chord names, the chords written out in standard notation, and the chords in tab. You truly cannot ask for more. Even so, JamTracks still delivers and gives you suggested approaches and scales for the backing tracks

The massive amount of options and opportunity can be a bit daunting, especially if you’re looking for a specific genre to work on. Thankfully there’s an option to filter by Genre, Key, or Instructor. Each genre gets its fair share of the tracks with Rock having the largest selection. 

The actual quality of the recordings needs to be mentioned. I definitely expected it to all sound “computery” and stale but I truly would not be able to tell if these were all programmed or recorded by an actual band. The tones are rich, the drums are vibrant, and I didn’t feel like I was playing along with robots.

So how would one best go about using JamTracks for practicing? These backing tracks could serve many purposes. They could be great “leisure tools” i.e. something to unwind with at the end of your practice session as a kind of reward. Likewise they could also be used to warm up your fingers before getting deep with a metronome or into a specific technique you’re trying to master.

The JamTracks themselves are great tools for learning both theory and song structure. Because the tracks are transcribed, you can actually see the “skeleton of the music” and analyze what’s going on. You can learn new chords, how to use them, and where to use them. Some of the jazz backing tracks get into some pretty advanced theory in terms of following rapidly changing chords, but they avoid the fatal mistake of explaining too much too fast.

 

What I really love about these backing tracks is that they target the different feels of music. What you learn from one feel you can apply to another, regardless of genre. The grooves you learn from Southern Metal are directly related to grooves you’ll use in Funk.

My only word of warning is be wary of getting lost in all the tracks. Use them in a targeted, deliberate manner in order to focus on one particular concept (minor pentatonics, chord changes, etc.) as you pursue larger lesson objectives. Overall these backing tracks are an invaluable tool in your toolbox. They’re not the end all be all of practicing, but they’ll add a lot of fuel to the fire and should accelerate you on your way to musical mastery like few other online resources can.

So with all this in mind, here’s a quick step-by-step guide for maximizing your use out of these JamTracks.

Find Your Target Area

Are you trying to get better at being able to “shred on demand” or are you looking to develop a lighter touch with your music? Setting goals like these should be your first priority in terms of bettering yourself as a musician.

Work Your Way Up

If you’re trying to develop your fluency as a jazz guitarist, don’t start with pan-modal backing tracks (that term sounds just as convoluted as it is). Instead, start with simple 2-5-1’s or Blues Progressions. The same goes for other genres. There’s no shame in slow metal grooves, just as there is no shame in four chord pop songs. We all have to start somewhere.

Analyze The Tracks

As I said before, these aren’t mindless backing tracks, and you’re not some mindless musician. Be mindful about what you’re doing. Ask why those chords are played where they are played. Challenge yourself to play those chords in a different way, in a different place on the neck.

Stick With The Tracks

If you like a certain track, keep working with it! Try to dig out all the possible sounds you can hear from the implications of the chords. Don’t just noodle the same old thing the same old way over the same old track. Really try to stretch the limits of what you can play. Don’t play just what works, play what sounds good to you, and push that to the breaking point.

All in all, it’s important to keep in mind that these tracks are tools. They are not the finished product. Use them, use them as often as you can, but do not confuse them with yourself. We use backing tracks to prepare ourselves to play with other musicians, and if you get in the habit of thinking of all music as a backing track, you’re in for a very rough time indeed.

Ready to try JamTracks? Become a member and join the more than 500,000 guitarists who have experienced JamPlay. Try out JamTracks and tap into guitar lessons from world class instructor artists in every genre and for every interest to power up your guitar skill. Become a member today at JamPlay.com.


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