August 14, 2011

Catching up

I know I haven't been on schedule with my posts so I apologize for that. I've been reading some of the comments and I'm gonna answer some questions.

Q: Can you detail the difference between the harmonic / melodic scales, and maybe link to some audio?
A: The harmonic scale is a 1 2 3b 4,5 6b 7 scale pattern while the melodic minor scale (ascending) is 1 2 b3 4 5 6 7. The reason I say ascending is to avoid confusion. It is often believed that the melodic minor scale has two patterns: ascending and descending. The descending pattern, however, is actually just a natural minor scale ( 1 2 3b 4 5 6b 7b ). As for links, I found this useful, but long video on YouTube. You could start the video around 3:10

Q: Any tips for tuning a guitar without a tuner?
A: The best option would be to look for an online guitar tuner and try your best to carefully listen to the pitch difference. Otherwise, there really isn't much else you could do :/

Again, I'm really sorry I haven't been posting lessons. I should be free for the majority of this week so I'll be writing, attempting to teach, and posting videos of some ideas I came up with. See you then!

August 8, 2011

Intro to Minor Chords

This lesson is very similar to Intro to Major Chords
Play a minor scale - the natural "1 2 3b 4 5 6b 7b": the harmonic "1 2 3b 4 5 6b 7"; or the melodic minor "1 2 3b 4 5 6 7" pattern. Now isolate the 1st, 3rd, and 5th notes in one of the scales (they're all the same) and play them. That's a minor  chord!
Natural Minor Scale Pattern
   1  2  3  4  5  6  7  *
*-octave of 1

Here's your Natural Minor Chord
   C                              C
e|---| But it would sound more  |---|
B|---| complete if played like  |-1-|
G|-0-| this                     |-0-|
D|-1-|                          |-1-|
A|-3-|                          |-3-|
E|---|                          |---|
I gave you the chords last time so you can go out there and search for more chords. Remember that you're here to teach yourself and I'm just a guide :) I know, I suck, but you'll thank me one day.

August 6, 2011

Scale The Summit: Masterclass (The Levitated)

I'm feeling extremely lazy today and I have to go to work soon anyway. I just thought I'd share this with you. Its a tutorial on how to play "The Levitated" by Scale The Summit. I think the members of Scale The Summit are very talented and play with a lot of emotion. Check them out!

If you were looking for a lesson today, sorry :| Just practice your finger exercises and try to learn how to play a new song :)

August 4, 2011

Intro to Major Chords

Remember what I said about the scale degrees? WELL, that applies to here as well. Play a major scale - the regular "1 2 3 4 5 6 7" pattern. Now isolate the 1st, 3rd, and 5th notes in the scale and play them. That's a major chord!
e|-------------------------| Since the 1st and
B|-------------------------| 3rd note lie on
G|-------------------4--5--| the same string,
D|----------3--5--7--------| we must adjust
A|-3--5--7-----------------| our scale pattern
E|-------------------------| formula.
   1  2  3  4  5  6  7  *
*-octave of 1
alternate major scale pattern
   1  2  3  4  5  6  7  *
*-octave of 1

It seems that we still face a problem...or do we? The 3rd and 5th degrees share the same string, BUT I KNOW YOU ARE SMART AND WILL FIGURE THIS OUT. You know that D|5 is the same note as G|0, right??
Here's your major chord
   C                              C
e|---| But it would sound more  |-0-|
B|---| complete if played like  |-1-|
G|-0-| this                     |-0-|
D|-2-|                          |-2-|
A|-3-|                          |-3-|
E|---|                          |-0-|

Due to the fact that the 1st, 3rd, and 5th notes of the C major scale are C, E, and G, adding more of the same notes help the chord sound more "whole", if you will.

Have fun.
   A   B   C   D   E   F   G

You can literally play hundreds of songs, just by knowing how to play 3 or 4 chords.

August 3, 2011

Personal Time

I usually make posts every other day but I don't have much to do today so I decided to tell you about myself. I've been playing guitar for about five to six years. When I first started, my father taught me a few chords and showed me some songs to play. Although they weren't my favorite, I played them anyway, because there wasn't much else I could do at the moment. Gradually, my practice was paying off. It was about time to move on.
I used to be into mainstream pop rock when I first started playing and at this moment, I felt it was a challenge I could now attempt. I was slowly getting there - taking my time figuring things out. It wasn't until someone showed me what tablature was when my adventure really started.
At first, I was perplexed - confused by all of the numbers and letters - but once it was explained to me, it couldn't be any simpler. In fact, it made me wonder why sheet music existed at all. The only problem with tablature was that it forces the reader to listen to the song as they are learning it. Very few tablatures have tempos and time signatures, but I never minded this. The fact was, I could easily read how to play any song, which is a huge opportunity for a self-taught guitarist.
As I started to get better, I became friends with others interested in music. I remember, maybe into my second or third year of playing, an old friend of mine asked me to try out for his band. When I arrived, I showed them whatever skill I possessed (which wasn't much at the time, I promise). The try out ended up with them teaching me new guitar techniques that I still hold invaluable today.
I was jealous of my friends. They have been playing about as long as I have, but, they were so much better than me. I felt embarrassed when I sat there, quietly, as they played riffs I've never heard before. It was then that I realized that they have been exposed to more challenging music than I have. I took it upon myself to challenge myself even more, practice my skills, and someday give my friends someone to look up to.
I slowly started weave away from mainstream rock and found my self more interested in heavy metal. It first started with Metallica (LOL) and some of the other heavier bands one would find on MTV such as The Devil Wears Prada and Attack Attack!. Then I got more into bands like As I Lay Dying and Trivium, who I felt had much more to offer in musical talent.
At this point, it's been three years since that one band practice. The same old friend asked me to try out for the band. I showed them what I could play and some songs I wrote myself. They were impressed, but I was still mesmerized by my friend's ability to literally sweep up and down the neck now. I felt like I have been wasting my time. I found out about new, more technically challenging bands;but this time, I wasn't going to rely on other bands to guide me, nor try to please anyone else. I decided to start writing my own songs and challenging myself.
Within the past outings with my friends, I felt I was able to redeem myself of all the suck I carried with me. I found myself up to par - maybe even surpassing them, but I still can't consider myself a very good guitarist. I have a long way to go.

My top three favorite bands are Veil of Maya, Periphery, and Animals As Leaders. They have been my favorites and my inspirations since the past couple of months. I'm into very experimental riffs and heavier tunings, but I appreciate all forms of music. I'm currently in an experimental/progressive metal band. I will probably post more about it when we record more things.
My guitar videos on YouTube are how I record some ideas that I'm too lazy to tab out. They are generally done on the spot without any practice - I feel I don't need to impress anyone if it's just an idea and not an actual song just yet.

Here are some examples of my ideas

I can easily admit that I messed up a lot in these videos but, as I said earlier, perfection wasn't the purpose of recording these.
I really hope some people enjoy what I write and try to write and share their own music with the world.

August 2, 2011

The Importance of Finger Exercises

Our hands were designed to simply grasp and let go - not for lightning fast licks that run down the neck. Like all other exercises, you first must warm up to prevent injury. Warming up slowly increases your body temperature, which increases the flexibility of muscles, ligaments, tendons and cartilage - which leads to fewer strains, sprains and tears. It also increases blood flow, which will help you play harder and faster. 

When you first begin to practice, try to follow a routine. My routines vary each day but daily consist of warm-ups, many fret stretches, and taxing guitar chords. Depending on your preferred genre of music, a simple cover of a song or at least part of a song may suffice. As I grew more skilled, I tended to lean toward more physically demanding pieces - but everyone is different. 

Here is a good guitar exercise to build speed and dexterity.



You could even play this backwards if you like, but I'll let you practice your tablature reading skills for that. :)

15 minutes a day is all it takes to see great improvement.

July 31, 2011

The Major Scale - The Base of it All

It would help greatly if you memorized the finger positions for the major scale. Know that a sharp(#) makes a note higher while a flat(b) makes a note lower. 

Don't forget: 
semitone/half note - one fret
whole tone - two frets

If you memorized the major scale shape, you would know it has seven - excluding the octave -  finger positions (or degrees, if you're fancy). From now on, we will refer to these positions as 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, and 7. Easy enough?

Since most scales are variations of the major scale, we must make amends. For example, the finger positions for the Natural Minor scale are 1, 2, 3b, 4, 5, 6b, 7b. Try to remember that in this format, a flat(b) means you go a fret lower and a sharp(#) means you go a fret higher.

C Major Scale                   C Natural Minor Scale
  C  D   E   F  G   A   B  C     C  D   D#  F  G   G#  A#  C
  1  2   3   4  5   6   7  8     1  2   3b  4  5   6b  7b  8

The Natural Minor Scale is a base for many other minor scales such as:

Harmonic Minor Scale
1 2 3b 4 5 6b 7 8
1  2   3b 4  5   6b 7  8
Melodic Minor 
1 2 3b 4 5 6 7   
1  2   3b 4  5   6  7  8
Familiarize these shapes and you will go far.

July 29, 2011

Whole Tones and Introduction to Scales

A whole tone is made up of two semitones. If you remember from the last lesson, a semitone is the interval between two adjacent notes, which is one fret on guitar. A whole tone, however, is the interval between two semitones, which is two frets. A whole tone can be achieved if one plays a note followed by another note that is two frets higher or lower than the first. Let's use the C note as an example.

A   A#   B   C   C#   D   D#   E   F   F#   G   G#  
    W    H   *   H    W                     

* - Starting note
W - whole tone
H - Half tone/semitone

Semitones of the C note would be C to C# (ascending) or C to B/Cb (descending) while whole tones of C would be C to D (ascending) or C to Bb/A# (descending). If we tried to find the whole tones of G#, they would be Gb/F# and A#/Bb. Different patterns of whole and semi tones create scales. 

Find the C note and play this pattern: W W H W W W H 
You start by playing the C note. For each W, move up two frets. For each H, move up one fret. It could look something like this:

e|---------------------|           e|-----------------|
B|---------------------|           B|-----------------|
G|---------------------| or maybe  G|-------------4-5-|
D|---------------------|           D|-------3-5-7-----|
A|-3-5-7-8-10-12-14-15-|           A|-3-5-7-----------|
E|---------------------|           E|-----------------|

If it sounded like the very familiar DoReMiFaSoLaTiDo scale, you just played the C Major Scale. Each scale is based off of the major scale. Memorize these scale shapes:

   *W W H W W W H*   *W W H W W W H*

   *W W H W W W H*   *W W H W W W H*

If you memorize these fingering shapes, you can play this anywhere on the neck and it will be a major scale. Just apply the same pattern to a different starting fret.

July 27, 2011

Semitones and the Chromatic Scale

Let's say someone asked you to play an F# (F-sharp) note on the guitar. Where would you begin? You know that the guitar strings are tuned to EADGBe, which is standard tuning, but do you know the chromatic scale?

The Chromatic Scale is, what I call, the alphabet of music. It is a scale that consists of 12 notes, each a semitone apart. A semitone, also known as a half step, is the distance of one note to the next adjacent note. Semitones are always one note and one fret apart. An example of a semitone would be:
e|-----|       e|-----|              e|-------|
B|-----|       B|-----|              B|-----9-|
G|-----| and   G|-----|  as well as  G|-12----|
D|-----|       D|-----|              D|-------|
A|-----|       A|-2-1-|              A|-------|
E|-0-1-|       E|-----|              E|-------|

When it comes to tabs - to achieve a semitone, you literally add or subtract 1 to whatever note you are fretting. BUT NOT ALWAYS. As you can see in the third example, G|12 and B|9 are semitones but they are on different strings. However, if you tried adding one to the G|12 (12+1=13) you would notice that G|13 is the same note as B|9. 

          e|-------|                         e|--------|
          B|-----9-|                         B|--------|
playing   G|-12----| is the same as playing  G|-12--13-|
          D|-------|                         D|--------|
          A|-------|                         A|--------|
          E|-------|                         E|--------|

Confused? This is where the chromatic scale comes in.

In western music, there are 12 musical pitches. They are:
A   A#   B   C   C#   D   D#   E   F   F#   G   G# 


A   Ab   G   Gb   F   E   Eb   D   Db   C   B   Bb 

# means sharp

b means flat 

Whenever one is ascending, sharps are mentioned and whenever one is descending, flats are mentioned.

A   A#   B   C   C#   D   D#   E   F   F#   G   G#             
    Bb   Cb      Db       Eb   Fb      Gb       Ab
Note: If they are in the same column, they are the same note on guitar.                                                          ================================================================
Basically, this scale cycles between every note. Now lets try to find that F# we where looking for earlier.
If you have memorized standard tuning by now, you'd know that the guitar has two E-strings. What comes after E...? F does. Now what's after F on the chromatic scale...? F#. It should be on the second fret of any E-string.

Now find F# on the A-string. If you did it right, it should have been the 9th fret. You can literally memorize the order of the notes in the chromatic scale to find any note you need.

Here's a great chromatic scale exercise to build finger strength, speed, and dexterity. Also a great way to warm up.


It's important to use all of your fingers (thumbs don't count). Start each string with the index finger and end each string with the little finger. Ascend, descend, repeat. If you are new, take this very slowly and be careful not to push yourself too hard. Focus on sounding the note clearly before going for speed. If you are more experienced, focus on speed and clearly articulate each note.

Try to practice at least 15 minutes everyday.

July 25, 2011

How to read Tablature

I think tablature, also known as tabs, are simple and easy to read. It is a method of writing music that I prefer over sheet music. It consists of letters and numbers, kind of like the board game Battleship: you see a letter, go to the fret and sink that note! Each letter represents a string and each number represents a fret (you know, those little perpendicular lines on the guitar neck). The order of strings from the lowest to highest in standard tuning would be EADGBe. Note that by "lowest" I mean the lowest in pitch and by "highest" I mean the highest in pitch. If you put your guitar on your lap with the strings facing the ceiling, it should look something like this:

You read tabs from left to right. Each column you see is like a 
word - it may have many notes or few notes but no matter what you 
say, it's still just one word. If you see more than one number in 
a column, you play them all at the same time. 
Look at your A-string and put your middle finger on the second 
fret. A|2
Now keep your middle finger there and put your ring finger on the 
second fret of the D-string. D|2 
Now strum your guitar. All of the strings. 
^^ If you did it right, you have just played this Em chord. I'll 
explain chords another day.
Try playing this. 
If it sounded anything like DoReMiFaSoLaTiDo, you have just played
a major scale. This scale in particular is the G Major Scale. 
We'll go in-depth with scales another day. Try to practice this 
scale forward and backward, if you're up for the challenge. When 
you become adept at reading tabs, you'll be able to write your own
music! If you are new and become easily frustrated, take a deep 
breath, relax, and try again another time. Remember that the human
body was not designed to play guitar. Take it slow and after much
patience and practice, you will improve.

Don't forget to have fun!


Let this be a warning to you: I DO NOT and WILL NOT go into anything involving sheet music. That includes: staffs, clefs, and ledger lines; note duration; rest duration; measures and time signatures; dots and ties; nor key signatures. I have a strong animosity toward sheet music. However, I will go into scales, scale shapes and chords, as well as alternate tunings and guitar exercises. Remember, I am not a teacher. I have been playing guitar for about five or six years but I will be relearning at the same pace you are learning. I encourage you to not do exactly as I do. I'm simply acting as a guide.

I don't think art should be bounded by theories; I do believe that knowledge of these theories are important in becoming a more open minded musician. Just remember to have fun.

I plan on posting lessons at least three days a week, maybe every other day so don't forget to stop by every now and then. I will try to keep the lessons as short and concise as possible and I will include tabs, exercises, and riffs to help you further explore the lessons on your own.

Now that everything has been said, let's get started!