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

Proper Technique

On February 28, 2014

We all know proper technique is important in guitar playing to keep your body healthy. However, one aspect I’ve noticed from observing both my own students and students in my college music department is a lack of a real warm up routine.

People usually play chords near the nut for only a few minutes then jump into complex jazz and classical pieces. Or as I’ve been prone to in my past, fast displaced octave runs. This can lead to injuries later on in your playing career. I recently had a run in with a repetitive injury. It takes time away from playing. You can head issues like these off and keep them away.

Your muscles and tendons need to get working a bit before you do anything complex. Otherwise there will be a strain on them which down the road can cause issues. Here are a few tips I’ve picked up that might be new to you.

1. Before you even touch your guitar, do a few stretching exercises with your hands and arms. Remember, guitar playing involves more than just fingers and wrists. Your forearm, elbow, and shoulder also come into play. I won’t go into detail about what kind of stretches, as there are many you can do.

2. If you are in a cold environment before playing, allow your hands to warm up before attempting anything. You’ve probably noticed how it’s hard to move your hands when they’re cold. Doing so can put added strain on those muscles and tendons. Strain is never good. A tip a doctor gave me is to allow them to warm up without subjecting them to a heat source. The rapid change in temperature can also cause some issues.

3. So when it’s time to play, warm up near the body, not the nut. Simply put, there is less distance between frets up near the body than at the nut. Playing up here first will allow your hands to start moving at lesser distances. This will help because you will stretch less when your hands aren’t in optimal playing shape.

4. There is no need to play fast at all during a warm up. Take your time with it. Typically, this warm up period can last 15 to 20 minutes. Even big name guitarists take some time to build up to speed. I recently read an interview where both of Slayers guitarists take about an hour to reach their top playing speed. They work up slowly to it. The same approach applies to us as well. I simply can’t state the importance of a proper warm up routine. It will help you to play the instrument for a lifetime. Don’t think that injury can’t happen to you. It’s entirely preventable. If you notice pain or stress building up, stop and find the cause of it. Are you fretting too hard, are you placing your wrist at an odd angle, etc. When I teach, proper posture and warm ups are first on the agenda. It’s often hard to break out of bad habits on the guitar. By having a good routine in place, you’ll be able to enjoy the guitar for as long as you wish. Hopefully, something here has been informative to you. Maybe not to move advance players, but for beginners. I’ll be submitting a lesson next on some warm up exercises for you to have a look at. Take care till then.

String Names

On February 28, 2014

Open String Names

Description: A simple idea for helping your student remember the basics of playing the guitar. Printer friendly diagram showing names and numbering of open strings on the guitar.

To understand this lesson, sit with your guitar on your lap as if you were playing it. Look down at the strings. Now look at this diagram below. The diagram represents all the string on the guitar. You will see from the bottom of the diagram the horizontal line is marked as the bottom string and work upwards to the top string. Now on the guitar, the string closest to your chin is the bottom string and the string closest to your leg is the top string.

To understand the note of each string, try to remember the phrase: Elephants And Donkeys Grow Big Ears. The relates to the notes E A D G B E of the strings on the guitar.

image string names

Most Common Chords

On February 28, 2014

Open Chords

Description: Reference diagrams showing fingerings for all common open chords on the guitar.

These are the most common chords and it would be a good idea to familiarise yourself with these chords. Many popular songs would use a combination of these chords here.

Guitar Tablature Introduction

On February 28, 2014

Before attempting to drive to unknown location, you would use a map or sat nav which gives you instructions for how to get there. When you are building flat pack furniture, you refer to the instructions explaining the steps for how to do it. In guitar music, when learning something new, you need instructions too. The instructions you need can be found in the form of guitar tablature.

In this lesson I will be showing you the essential basics of reading guitar tablature. First, we will look at the standard layout used for guitar tablature.

1||-------|-------|-------|-------|-------|-------||(top string - furthest away from you)
2||-------|-------|-------|-------|-------|-------||
3||-------|-------|-------|-------|-------|-------||
4||-------|-------|-------|-------|-------|-------||
5||-------|-------|-------|-------|-------|-------||
6||-------|-------|-------|-------|-------|-------||(bottom string - nearest to you)

Each horizontal line represents each string of a guitar. The bottom line/string is the lowest (thickest) string of a guitar (string 6), the top line is the highest (thinnest) string of a guitar (string 1), and the other lines in between simply represent the remaining strings (strings 2, 3, 4 and 5).

Each vertical line represents the start/end of each bar (bar lines) and the spaces in between are where you will find the instructions. Bars and bar lines are are almost like the commas of a written sentence: they allow a player to pace the piece of music he is playing, like the commas allow a reader time to breathe whilst reading. Each double vertical line can either represent the start/finish of an entire piece of music, or the start/finish of a section within a piece of music. If bar lines are like musical commas, then double bar lines are like musical full stops. They can be used when one musical idea ends and another begins, for example: at the end of a verse and start of a chorus. We will now look in more detail at how the strings of a guitar are represented using tablature.

 

e||-------|-------|-------|-------|-------|-0-----||
B||-------|-------|-------|-------|-0-----|-------||
G||-------|-------|-------|-0-----|-------|-------||
D||-------|-------|-0-----|-------|-------|-------||
A||-------|-0-----|-------|-------|-------|-------||
E||-0-----|-------|-------|-------|-------|-------||

Each zero tells the player that they should play the string without placing any of their fingers on any of the fret spaces. This is known as playing the string/strings ‘open’. The letters that appear before the first double bar line (EADGBe) are the names of the notes that each string makes when they are played open. So then the lowest string when played open will make a low (E) note, the string above will make an (A) note and the highest string will make a high (e) note, which is often represented with a lowercase letter instead of an uppercase letter to show that it makes a higher sound than the low (E) string.It is helpful to make up sentences that are constructed using words that begin with the letters of each string, such as: Elephants And Donkeys Grow Big ears (EADGBe). These sentences can be used as memory aids. We will now look at how the frets of a guitar are represented using tablature.

||-------|-------|-------|-------||
||-------|-------|-------|-------||
||-------|-------|-------|-------||
||-------|-------|-------|-------||
||-------|-------|-3-----|-4-----||
||-1-----|-2-----|-------|-------||

Each number tells the player that they should play the string, using an appropriate finger to hold down the string in the fret space indicated. The fret space between the nut of the guitar and the first fret is shown as the number 1, the space between the first fret and the second fret is shown as the number 2 and so on. To achieve the best sound, the string should be held down just behind the fret closet to your picking hand.

Finally, I should explain that on a musical stave there are many symbols used to give extra information to the player on how to play the piece of music. These symbols are not displayed when using tablature, however, for the benefit of the players, this extra information may be written in instead. Below are the brief definitions of some of the basic extra information that may be provided to the players.

Tempo – is the speed of the music; indicates the type and number of beats per minute.

Time Signature – is the pulse of the music; indicates the type and number of beats per bar.

Key Signature – is the tone of the music; indicates the essential notes that will be used during the piece. The terms written above will be dealt with in greater detail and with examples of each type as the appear in future lessons. The instructions given in this lesson on how to read music cover the essential basics of reading tablature. A greater knowledge and understanding of tablature symbols and directions will be required for more advanced playing and these will also be covered in future lessons.

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