Mar 4 2011

Practice, iRig, John Mayer and more

by Josh

How quickly a month goes by!

Amid the frenzy of preparation for our new baby, I have found the time to practice on a handful of songs and techniques that have helped me progress (or at very least remain the same).  I have been working on some fingerstyle techniques lately, thanks to my cousin John I found this YouTube video of Dale Turner explaining Hole Notes in the style of James Taylor.  I found the focus on the formation and ornamentation of chords to produce a more interesting song very helpful.

On the electric side of things, I have been continuing to play with my iRig which has succeeded wildly in letting me explore the more rock/metal leanings of my Les Paul.  My stratocaster has not been neglected, thanks to the discovery of this tutorial (with tab!) of John Mayer’s “Slow Dancing in a Burning Room”.  I am growing to appreciate John Mayer’s guitar abilities… he is one of those artists that I’m not a crazy fan of but I do see that he has talent.  The blues infusion in this particular song and the mellow groove really keeps my interest.  I am by no means good at playing this song, in fact it is a giant struggle to get through the intro but it is helping to practice moving up and down the neck and practicing hammer-ons.

If you like the look of John Mayer’s Black One guitar, John (my co-contributor on this site) operates Custom-Relics.com where he makes a fantastic reproduction of that guitar (among many others).  I have personally laid hands on many of the reproductions that he offers and can tell you that a lot of care goes into making them look “just right.”  Check it out!

Over the next few weeks, I am going to continue working on these songs primarily.  I have a few other projects in the works, but that will have to wait for another time!

 


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!


Sep 19 2010

Acoustic Guitar Building…

by Josh

For the last few months, I have been cultivating an interest in the construction of acoustic guitars.  This started simply enough this summer once I finished my ukulele kit and continued after I saw Andy McKee perform in Denver.  After some research into his Greenfield guitars, I got interested in figuring out what it would take to start building acoustic guitars on my own.

I found a myriad of different kits, and this led people to send me links of other fingerstyle acoustic players including this one by Antoine Dufour.  Dufour plays guitars by Mario Beauregard, who apprenticed from a man named Ervin Somogyi.  As I investigated further, several other luthiers have apprenticed and raved about the abilities of Somogyi so I headed over to his website and found this excellent video.

It seems that Somogyi has written some of the best books available on the topic of acoustic guitar building, but they are very expensive.  After thinking it over for a few months, today I ordered my book and DVD set.  I plan to read them over the winter months and select a project next year to begin.  I plan to start with an acoustic guitar kit or two so I can get some of the mechanics of assembly down, and then attempt hand-building a guitar myself if that goes well.

I am excited about this new hobby, expect to see more here over the coming months!


Aug 18 2010

What’s been going on lately…

by Josh

Happily, a lot of guitar practice. I’ve been alternating between my Gibson Custom and my Seagull acoustic, mostly practicing songs that I am familiar with. I’ve been continuing on lessons over at Totally Guitars and slowly making progress.

I got the opportunity to travel back to my hometown thanks to my job, so I got to hang out and jam with my two cousins. It’s always cathartic to get to practice with family, and I always find it to be much more relaxing.

In the process of learning more about the guitar, I am also cultivating a strong interest in learning to build guitars myself. It will likely be next year before I execute on this interest, but we might end up with a new section at The Guitar Zero to focus on instrument building for the absolute beginner. I am still in the information-gathering phase, but luckily the Internet is filled with information from both amateur and professional luthiers. As the weeks progress, I will explore some of the more interesting websites that I have discovered lately.

In the meantime, I will get back to posting more about my guitar practice and some recent discoveries that have made playing more easy. More soon!


May 26 2010

Video of the new axe!

by Josh

EDIT: I removed the video so I could reshoot a replacement with better audio quality. Please bear with me while I fix this up. 🙂

This is the first time I’ve ever put a video of me playing guitar on YouTube. I made this video to show my new 1957 VOS Les Paul Custom Gold Top, specifically the differences in the pickups. I recorded this with my wife’s Nikon Coolpix camera, so the audio quality isn’t the best but it gets the job done. The amp I used is my Fender Blues Junior, and that’s about all there is to tell about it!


May 25 2010

My new ’57 VOS Gibson Les Paul Custom Gold Top!

by Josh

I decided earlier this year to buy myself a debt-free celebration present of a really nice guitar to continue my learning process on, so I picked the Les Paul Traditional.  However, those of you that have been following along over at my personal blog are aware of my recent dealings with MusiciansFriend regarding my order for a Les Paul Traditional that my order was delayed.  Shortly after my blog post was up, I was quickly contacted by a gentleman named Justin with MusiciansFriend that wanted desperately to make things right, and I am pleased to report that they have done just that.

They provided me an option to upgrade my order to a used Gibson Les Paul Custom (that they had in stock) and after a fairly long email chain they quickly had it to my door.  I’m happy we were able to work out a compromise that resulted in me ending up with a better guitar, despite the fact it was more expensive.  As anyone that has been near me lately can attest, I am very pleased.

The Guitar

I opted for a more cost-effective used model of the Gibson Les Paul Custom 1957 VOS Gold Top.  MusiciansFriend was advertising this guitar as used, despite the fact that there appears to be very little used about it.  They claim that the VOS finish was polished to a semi-gloss, however there is nothing to indicate that it wasn’t done by the Custom Shop or someone equally skilled.  One of my friends is a former Gibson employee and told me that people pay a lot to have their Gibsons finished in this fashion, so there was absolutely nothing wrong with it and I’m inclined to agree with him.

The Neck and Back

The neck on this guitar is rounded in the 1950’s style.  It’s the biggest neck I’ve ever held on an electric guitar, far surpassing my acoustic’s neck in fatness.  I wasn’t sure I was going to like this at the onset, but just a few minutes of playing it extolled the virtues of a large neck.  It fit my hands very well and put my wrist in the proper position very naturally.  Both the neck and the back of the guitar are solid mahogany, which gives this guitar excellent sustain.  It also makes it weigh a metric ton.

The Pickups

I made a concession on the pickups.  I really wanted to get a guitar that had the ’57 Classic pickups, but the more research I did indicated that I was actually trading up here too.  It seems that Gibson pickups are one of those “holy war” topics where it is very difficult to be right, you eventually have to end up going with what you want.  My new guitar has Burstbucker 1 and 2 pickups, which are considered “precise replicas” of the original Patent Applied For pickups (if you believe the marketing materials).

Not being extremely well versed in Gibson lore, I had only a few reference points.  One of them is my buddy Paul’s Gibson Les Paul Standard, which has Burstbucker Pros.  My pickups sound mellower than his, but they still sound great when they have some gain put on them.  Personally, I prefer the mellower sound so once again I’m happy.

Playability

The thing that gets me the most about this guitar is the big leap in playability.  The action on this guitar was very good right out of the box, making it easy to get up and down the neck without a lot of effort.  In addition, the frets are both tall and wide, which cuts down on the amount of pressure needed to make a clean note.  Add these things together with the fat neck, the extra sustain from the solid neck and back, and the vintage-style pickups and it all adds up to one incredible instrument.

Thanks to MusiciansFriend for making this situation right, and thanks to Gibson’s Custom Shop for making a superior instrument.  This sure is one great debt-free present!

Wanna see more pictures?  Get a fairly large zip file here and check ’em out.


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.


Mar 7 2010

Common Chord Progressions and you…

by Josh

Over the last two months, I’ve been working on a lot of song practice.  Most recently, I have discovered the newest offering by one of my favorite bands: Barenaked Ladies.  For some reason, their new song “You Run Away” has burrowed into my brain and I have been listening to the single I purchased from iTunes frequently.

After some discussion with John, he pointed out that the guitar parts of this song are pretty easy.  I was somewhat skeptical, knowing that Ed Robertson’s guitarwork is on average far more advanced than what I would consider pretty easy, but I asked John to get me the chords for it anyway.  He quickly hit me back with details that as far as he could tell, the song used a capo on the 2nd fret and the chords were G, Dsus4/F#, Em7, and Cadd9.

That sounds like a mouthful, I thought… but I tried it out and quickly realized that these were the EXACT same chords that I use to play Eve, The Apple of my Eye.  I was but a few hours of strumming practice away from getting the pattern and with little effort I had another song in my repertoire!  John pointed out that this is one of the more common chord progressions in pop/rock music today and there is probably 100 more songs that follow the same pattern.  We’ve started work on a list that we will post up here, but it’s fun when skills from one song directly transfer to another!

Thanks to John for the chord tab and to Barenaked Ladies for a great song that inspired me to look deeper.  Their new album arrives in Canada on March 23rd and the US on March 30th, so be sure to check it out!


Nov 29 2009

TotallyGuitars.com

by Josh

Over the long holiday weekend, I had the opportunity to watch Paul McCartney’s concert on TV.  That led me to YouTube, looking up guitar lessons on how to play some Beatles hits and I stumbled upon this video instructing some of the basics about Yesterday along with some history on the variety of ways that the song is played.  I was pretty impressed by this mini-lesson, so I ventured over to TotallyGuitars.com and looked around some more.

After signing up for a free account, I’ve been devouring the lessons taught by Neil Hogan.  He is a very clear instructor, however at times he does excitedly descend into some rather complicated explanations (for my experience level) how different chord or patterns fit together.  So far my favorite lessons have been his “campfire songs” where he takes some popular music and makes them easily strummed, suitable for singing with friends around a campfire.

Neil also goes into some detail with his basic lessons and tips that I really wish I would have had when I first started learning the guitar.  I was always sure that mechanics existed that could be taught to aid with understanding basic strumming, how to hold a pick, and how to form chords more easily and Neil teaches these elements in a concise and easily understood way.

As I mentioned, I have been working on his campfire song versions of Tequila Sunrise and Boulevard of Broken Dreams.  I played the latter without telling my wife what I was playing and she said “hey, I know that song, that’s Green Day right?” which meant I got it close enough to be recognizable!  TotallyGuitars.com has something called the TARGET program which provides much further in-depth song lessons and an Acoustic Genius program that takes you from having never picked up a guitar to being able to do advanced songs and techniques.

Since I’m traveling the last half of December, I intend to continue devouring the free content but after the first of the year I’m definitely signing up for their TARGET program when I can focus on learning and applying his lessons.  I highly recommend heading over to TotallyGuitars.com and signing up for their free account to test-drive some of Neil’s lessons.  If you like it, sign up for their TARGET program and report back how successful you have been!