Nov 30 2010

Gibson: User’s Guide To Distortion

by Josh

Just a quick one: Gibson has released a User’s Guide To Distortion and it does a great job of explaining the different types of distortion and what it means to your playing.  Very enlightening!


Sep 21 2010

Chromatic Scale Drills

by Josh

My friend Paul turned me on to an easy drill to do in order to get yourself accustomed to proper picking technique and movement around the guitar neck.  Paul discovered this drill from another coworker of ours who is quite accomplished on the guitar and used to do this drill “every time he picked up a guitar”.  He also runs SongInspire, where you can purchase backing tracks to help your playing.

The drill is fairly simple and based on the chromatic scale.  You start at the first fret on the E string and play each of the first four frets, one at a time taking special care to use proper picking technique.  Then you move over to the A string and repeat the same process.  You continue in this fashion until you reach the high E string, and then do the exact same steps backwards.

Once you reach the first fret on the low E string, you move your hand down to the second fret and repeat the process.  You continue on in this way until you reach the 12th fret, and then work your way back up the neck until you end on the first fret.

It doesn’t take that long (I can get through it in about 15 minutes going at a fair pace) and it really helps to get you used to picking without thinking about it and moving comfortably across, up, and down the guitar neck.  Once you get comfortable with the mechanics of the drill and things begin to flow a bit more naturally, you can augment this by tapping your foot to keep time or using a metronome to work on that aspect of your guitar playing as well.

I hope you get some value from this drill, I know I am!  Thanks to Paul for turning me on to this, and Dave for turning him on to it!


Apr 27 2010

Learning by jamming…

by Josh

I have the notable pleasure of working in an office environment with a bunch of other amateur musicians, so once in awhile we get together and have an office jam. The latest of these was last weekend, and we tend to prepare a new song each jam session and then go back to some old favorites.

I ended up arriving to the jam session late (as usual) and joined in with the group on a long rendition of Hey Joe.  After that, we made a few aborted attempts at Layla by Eric Clapton and quickly just fell into a blues session. A coworker of mine is fairly experienced with the guitar, and I picked up a simple little blues shuffle by watching him which ended up being my main contribution to the song.

Just as with anything, it seems to help if you surround yourself with more experienced players and just try to pick up a thing or two each time to work on.  It was fun getting to learn a few new licks, and that led me to seek out  this YouTube tutorial on a simple 12-bar blues that I’ve been working on lately.  I hope you all enjoy it.


Jan 8 2010

Tip of the Week: The String Cleaner

by Josh

John is a new addition to TheGuitarZero team. He has been playing guitar since he was a little kid, and has spent most of his adult life chasing tone and knowing all there is to know about guitar gear.


Here is a simple tip that will save you time and money.

A great way to save on string wear is to get a clean cloth and wipe down your strings before and after you play.  When you play the oils in your fingers get deposited on the surface of the string.  That can lead to corrosion or even rust leading to bad strings.  Dirty strings are unhappy strings.  So by wiping down your strings before and after each time you play you will save time by not having to change the strings and money by not having to buy them.  A good product is called The String Cleaner.  Its specifically designed with hook shaped microfiber to eliminate virtually all junk from your strings.

The fact that it works better than anything else out there combined with its small, flexible, easy to use design means that it will be money well spent: you will make that back in no time with the strings you don’t need to buy.


Jul 19 2009

Barre Chord Practice with Paul

by Josh

It’s been nearly a month lacking of updates, but I have been busy practicing!  I’ve been working on the songs that I have mentioned previously here almost daily.  This has caused some measurable improvement.  My friend Paul recently picked up a Fender Super Champ XD Guitar Combo Amp and we spent an evening putting it through a workout.  In the process, he showed me some Sex Pistols tunes including God Save The Queen.

This song is comprised of a variety of different barre chords, including the G major barre chord played at different locations up and down the neck.  I focused the bulk of my practice on this since that night, but Paul did a good job of walking me through the rest of the song so I can practice it once I get better at the mechanics of forming and transitioning the barre chord.

I’ve got a bunch of updates built up since the last time I posted, so you’ll see a little more activity here over the coming weeks as I unpack some of the interesting resources I have accumulated.


Jun 13 2009

Lemon oil is good for fretboards…

by Josh

Over the past week, I spent a good deal of time hanging out with my cousins in Illinois.  During that time, I got to play with a variety of different guitars, pedals, and other miscellanea.  I was explaining to my cousin John about my recent electric guitar setup at which time he gave me a few additional tips on how he cares for his fretboard.

He uses denatured lemon oil on his fretboards.  The process he uses to apply the oil is pretty simple: take off the strings, get a soft microfiber rag fairly soaked with the lemon oil, wipe across the fretboard leaving a generous deposit of lemon oil behind.  He then lets the guitar stand for 10-15 minutes so the fretboard can soak up all of that oil, then he gently wipes the fretboard off with a different microfiber cloth.  He says that he prefers to keep a little oil still present on the fretboard for good measure.

Here’s some additional details I found on this topic.

Next time I change the strings on my Fender I’m going to try this!


Jun 3 2009

Electric Guitar setup…

by Josh

I got my new 1960’s reissue Fender Stratocaster a few days ago.  I was told that all guitars (electric or otherwise) require a setup periodically to ensure their proper function.  Normally, I would take this type of work to a professional guitar shop (and I recommend you do), however I have a coworker that has a LOT of guitars and knows how to set them up properly so I let him do it.

Today I found out way more about my electric guitar than I possibly could have imagined.  Fender Stratocasters have a floating bridge which means the bridge is suspended above the body of the guitar.  My coworker tells me that the floating bridge is a bit harder to keep in tune, which may explain why the previous owner of my guitar had elected to “lock” the bridge by making adjustments to force the tremolo springs to lower the bridge to nearly flush with the body.

I am told that this is somewhat common with floating bridges.  This modification lowers the strings near the body of the guitar, which was causing the strings to vibrate against the lower frets.  My buddy fixed this up by restoring the bridge to its original configuration, which raised the strings and allowed the neck to flex properly which eliminated the fret buzz.  He then made some fine adjustment to the bridge to get the string height appropriately configured.

He demonstrated several measurements to prove the fixes were complete, but I’m going to have to read more before I understand exactly what he meant.

I will post more details from the setup process as I remember them!


Jun 1 2009

New guitar is showing up today!

by Josh

My New Guitar!

I was lucky enough to come across a good price for this lovely used 60’s reissue Fender Stratocaster in three-tone sunburst!  The shipping notice says it should show up today, so with any luck I will be getting it set up and ready to rock shortly!

Aside from the price, I selected this guitar at the advice of my cousin John.  He knows what type of music I like and recommended this particular model of guitar.  He likes Fender stuff and has his own truly excellent David Gilmour relic stratocaster.  He’s even got some YouTube videos playin’ the thing.  He knows a quality guitar when he gets his hands around one!

Paul, one of my coworkers has recommended the book Fretboard Logic as a good starting point to help learning how to play solos, so I’ll be getting that to help with my skill building!


May 12 2009

Basics: Tablature

by Josh

Tablature (or tab for short) is a very common way to learn simple songs on the guitar.  It essentially provides you a diagram of where to put your fingers on a timeline so if you follow it you can play a song.  Some tab will provide you just the chords to play certain songs, while others will give you a common notation to know what frets to put your fingers on to form the note sequence or chord that you want to play.

Tab Basics

Here is an example of guitar tablature, taken from the Wikipedia article on this topic:

The chords E, F, and G:

e|---0---1---3---
B|---0---1---0---
G|---1---2---0---
D|---2---3---0---
A|---2---3---2---
E|---0---1---3---
     E   F   G

The numbers in the example above will help you learn to form those chords. You count the numbers from the top of the neck down. If you were playing the E chord as indicated in the diagram above, you’d be pressing the G string on the 1st fret, and the D string and A string on the second fret. One thing that tab doesn’t really help you much with is which finger goes where, that’s when I usually hop over to Google and do a quick search to find a picture of someone forming the chord so I know which finger goes where.

You will find that many notations will also indicate some more advanced techniques, many of which I do not know how to perform accurately (yet!), such as hammer-on, bend, slide up, and slide down.

Other variations

As I mentioned before, other variations of guitar tablature will only give you the chords.  I generally find this style of tablature useful for songs that you tend to strum chords. For songs that are more oriented towards fingerpicking (lots of single string notes played one at a time with individual fingers), I tend to prefer the notation listed above.

Here you can see an example of chord tablature, taken from Ultimate-Guitar.com tab for Free Fallin’ by Tom Petty:

        D    Dsus  Dsus  D   Asus
she's a good girl, loves her mama

You can see the benefit here is that you can see where the chords go in relation to the words in the song. Both versions of guitar tablature do this, however as I mentioned before this way is more useful for songs that make use of full chords that you can strum along with.

Understanding guitar tablature is an important skill to begin learning, so try searching for “Your Favorite Song’s Name tab” in a search engine and see a few examples for yourself!


May 4 2009

Basics: A few tuning tips from Paul…

by Josh

This is the reason I started this site!  After reading yesterday’s post, my buddy Paul provided these additional tuning tips:

  • Always tune low (fatter strings) to high (thinner strings).  The lower strings put higher tension on the guitar’s neck, which can affect the tuning of the higher strings.  If you do this the other way around, you might find that the high strings have gone out of tune after you adjust the lower strings!
  • Always tune the tuning pegs from flat (looser) to sharp (tigher), for largely the same reason as above.  The tigher you make the strings, the more they affect the tension of the guitar’s neck!

Thanks for the tips, Paul!  If anyone else has guitar tuning tips, feel free to provide them in the comments!