On September 13, 2015

When the guitar is played well it can create the most fantastic sounds and tones and captivate even the most musical unaware audiences. The tone of the guitar depends on a number of things, the quality and ability of the person playing the guitar, the types of wood and the manufacturing process that went into the creation of the guitar and of course, perhaps one of the easiest ways to influence the tone of the guitar, the guitar strings that are used and how old/worn they are.

Depending on the guitar you use, you will either have steel strings or nylon strings and this refers to the inside of the string, the core of the string. Most strings will also be ‘wound’, meaning they have perhaps a bronze coating wound around the core of the string. It’s very important that you are familiar with the type of guitar strings you have for your guitar, so you ensure you purchase the correct kind.

All players looking to learn to play the guitar will need to replace their strings. This article will look at changing guitar strings on steel strings, nylon strings and electric guitar strings (also steel). We will look at it step by step to provide a guide for how to do it.

Steel Strings

Nylon Strings

Electric Guitar Strings

How Chords Are Constructed

On March 11, 2014

Chord ChartA chord is produced when three or more different notes are played together at the same time.

Different combinations of notes produce different sounding chords and all chords will have a name.

A chord can be built from any combination of notes, although some will sound much better than others.

The note on which a chord is built and from which the chord takes its name is called the root note.

For example, ‘C’ is the root note of the ‘C Major’ chord. ‘E’ is the root note of the ‘E7′ chord’. F would be the root note of an ‘F# minor’ or ‘F#m’ chord

Here are instructions for how to work out and form a chord:

1) Find the major scale of the root note (7 notes in total).

Let’s use an easy scale to start with, lets’s take the C Major scale:
C D E F G A B

2) Extend the scale so it goes up two octaves.

C D E F G A B C D E F G A B

3) Number each note 1-14

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14
C D E F G A B C D E  F  G  A  B

Chord Formula4) Choose the formula for the chord you want:

Let’s make a C-Major chord, look at the list.
The formula for a major chord is 1 : 3 : 5

This means that we need the 1st, 3rd and 5th notes of the ‘C’ Major scale.

5)Find the notes from the scale

Use step three to help you

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14
C D E F G A B C D E  F  G  A  B

Looking at step 3, the 1 : 3 : 5 notes of a ‘C’ Major scale are C : E : G.
This means that a C-Major chord is made up of the notes C : E : G, in any order (but normally starting with the root note, C)

Let’s do another example:

The formula for a minor chord is 1: b3 : 5 (the ‘b’ in b3 means flattened. That means a ‘b3’ is called a flattened third)

To build a ‘C’ minor chord you need the 1st, b3 and 5th notes of the ‘C’ major scale.

So, the notes of a ‘C’ minor chord are C : Eb : G (notice how we have taken an ‘E’ note and added a ‘b’ to it? We have made ‘E’

Importance of Rest & Recovery

On March 1, 2014

This isn’t really a lesson, in the traditional sense. This is more of an article for you to read to understand the importance of rest and recovery to aid you in learning to play the guitar.

Alternate between rest and play

Alternating between activity and rest has many benefits. It makes practicing less tiring, helps prevent injury, gives the mind time to analyse information, and at some point, most of us will have experienced the benefits of this alternating, without realising it. Have you ever found the going tough while practicing guitar, then the phone rings and you stop to answer it. When you return a few minutes later, you find your playing has miraculously improved and the going is much easier. Then after half an hour or so of grinding away at your guitar again, it has returned to being a pain.

This is because the balance of activity and rest is not equal. Pausing to rest regularly keeps things fresh and loose, whereas grinding away for hours without rest makes for inefficient progress. But balancing action and rest isn’t just about taking a break every 15 minutes or so. It’s about maintaining equilibrium throughout the entire session. In the initial stages, this can mean playing a note and then resting for an equal time. Or playing an exercise and then resting for the equivalent amount of time. For example, when warming up, instead of just grinding through a scale in an effort to force yourself to limber up, try playing the first four notes; 1 and 2 and , then resting for a count of 1 and 2 and. This can be done by counting aloud or internally, or breathing the beats, or just keeping the groove in the usual way (feeling the rests). You should find this a more effective way to warm up.

Learning New Things

One of the most effective ways I’ve found to learn, is to take it 2 notes at a time. Slowly and carefully play the first 2 notes, including any harmonies, then pause and think about the next two. Approach the entire exercise in this careful and considered way. By giving yourself plenty of time to think about your next move, not only are you reducing mistakes, but it’s an almost effortless way to remember the piece.

Resting the muscles regularly becomes an important part of the learning process. It’s important to be aware that when we program our muscles to play a certain exercise, we can also program in stiffness, aches and pains in the form of unnecessary tension. Most aches and pains are due to poor programming rather than exertion. And a lot of the tension is due to the fact that things are happening faster than we’d like. We’re not quite sure what’s coming next and this causes tension; fear of the unknown. If you’d like a good demonstration of this, close your eyes next time you’re walking down the street, and keep walking. Your stress levels will go through the roof, and mental stress = physical tension. 

Whole Body Awareness

When playing guitar, we’re concentrating on what the hands are doing and we tend to completely ignore everything else. One of the first things you have to deal with, when learning to play the guitar is the sitting, and hand position. These are essential things to get used to because the type of music to be performed is very difficult if not impossible without good positioning. At the beginning these positions feel really uncomfortable and unnatural. But the fact is that it is the best way to keep the guitar absolutely still whilst playing in a free and relaxed way.

So what is important is to adopt the correct position with your feet and body and the guitar. Try to keep your back straight and your head centred to avoid twisting the spine or holding your neck in a way that would cause pain. The trouble is that it can be such an effort to concentrate on everything all at once. This is where the rest time will prove its usefulness. While playing, your mind will be totally focussed on the job in hand. It was when you stop playing that messages from the rest of your body are finally allowed to reach the conscious mind.

There’s not much more to be said on the subject. Basically go away and try it, sit in a good position with good technique, then play a note or two and relax completely. Move through a few of your pieces and technical exercises in this way and see the results. Watch out for that little devil called Impatience! He will definitely try to talk you out of it. But it’s time you stuck some tape over his gob anyway because that little ____ is just trying to get you to rush toward a desperate town called Frustration and Failure. You won’t like it there.

(With thanks to Chris Flatley)