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 29 2009

Video Lesson: Bell X1’s “Pinball Machine”…

by Josh

This video lesson is brought to you by my cousin, John.  He has been waging an ongoing war against poor Internet tablature and put this video together at my request.

I had been working on Bell X1’s “Pinball Machine” today using this tablature and noticed that while the chords sounded close there was a lot more intricacy to the actual song.  I asked John what he thought about the tablature, and he put this video together in only 45 minutes to help me get straightened out!

I still have to work on the strum pattern and getting the changing fingers more natural, but this certainly helped me on my way.  I hope you all enjoy it!

John specializes in a service that helps aspiring musicians get the unique sound of popular acts.  He’s also darned good at working out simple guitar lessons and tablature as seen above.  If you would like to contact him, you can do so by emailing him at this address.

Jun 23 2009

Practice: Eve, The Apple of My Eye

by Josh

Tonight I decided to work on one of my favorite songs from a band most of you have probably never heard of: Bell X1.  Their song “Eve, The Apple of my Eye” has been featured in several shows in recent years, most noteably on Fox’s The O.C.  I’ve listened to this song a lot, which made it easier to practice with.  I have found that trend to remain true… if you can hear the song in your head as you’re working on it, it plays much easier.

Luckily, this song only appears to be around six chords all together (excerpted from the tablature, provided by Ultimate-Guitar.com) :

G	  (320033)
Dsus4/F#  (2x0233)
Em7	  (022033)
Cadd9	  (x32033)
C         (x32010)
D         (xx0232)

The C and D chords are used in the bridge only, which makes switching from the main song to the bridges easy. For the rest of the chords, I learned from my previous experience with Free Fallin’… it makes switching chords easy if you anchor the two fingers on the B and e strings while playing.  That makes it much easier to move just the index and middle finger to form the chords as the song progresses.

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 21 2009

Barenaked Ladies and Death Cab for Cutie practice and research…

by Josh

I’ve spent the last week periodically practicing some new songs: Soul Meets Body by Death Cab for Cutie and Light Up My Room by Barenaked Ladies.

For both of these songs, I received some instruction from my cousin John via Skype.  Soul Meets Body is only three chords, its a decent song to work on strumming and switching chords.  I still don’t quite have the strumming down, but its getting better.  Light Up My Room is one of my long-time favorite songs and I really wanted to learn the intro to that one.  It’s much more fingerpick oriented, but its not that hard of a pattern to figure out if you listen to the song while you practice.

My cousin was able to dig up a reference video for each of these songs: Soul Meets Body from an old appearance on Conan O’Brien and Light Up My Room from YouTube’s Bathroom Sessions.  Watching those videos helped work out the chord formations and some of the strumming/picking patterns to get more comfortable with the songs.

I’ll put up a more detailed post about each song after I work on them a bit more, so keep an eye out for those!

May 13 2009

Practice: Free Fallin’ by Tom Petty

by Josh

As I mentioned yesterday, I picked up the tab for Free Fallin’ by Tom Petty and gave it a shot.  Free Fallin’ is a song that is well suited to beginners like me because its only three chords and they’re very easy to switch between.

The song is comprised of a D chord, a Dsus chord, and an Asus chord.  The strum pattern is pretty easy to figure out if you listen to the song, and I learned an important lesson from this song: often, a finger or two will remain anchored and will not move as you move from chord to chord.  In the case of Free Fallin’, your ring finger will stay in the same spot on the B string.

You can see this by looking at the chords I listed above:

     D  Dsus  Asus

To move from the D to Dsus, simply add your fourth finger to the e string. To move from the D chord to the Asus chord, leave the ring finger where its at and then shift your index and ring fingers to the D and G string as indicated on the tablature above.  Anchor that ring finger and don’t let it move as you transition your chords, it really helps.

This is a very fun song to play and provides both chord switching practice and strumming practice. With a little work I think I can have this one down!

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   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 11 2009

Concerts: Fleetwood Mac

by Josh

I live near Denver and as a result get the chance to see some pretty great shows.  Last night was no exception, as I got the chance to see legends Fleetwood Mac in concert!

At first, I was a little apprehensive about spending that much money on a concert.  I have absolutely no reservations after the show!  The whole experience was cool… being an older band the crowd wasn’t rowdy at all.  In fact, a lady that reminded me quite a bit of my Mom was sitting next to us.  She warned me that she always cries at “Avalanche” which I can only figure meant “Landslide”… the band came on around 8:20 and played for around two and a half hours and did TWO encores!

The show was being billed as “The Hits” and it did not disappoint… pretty much every song I could think of that even remotely passed as a hit of theirs they did.  The highlights of the night for me was Lindsey Buckingham doing a completely wicked guitar solo that was so good he got an extended standing ovation after it was over.  Mick Fleetwood also had a pretty rocking drum solo during the first encore, which was pretty fun.  Stevie Nicks seemed a little lower in register than I remember her being from her albums, but still worked it out pretty well.  John McVie just seemed to be there… quietly working it out on the bass without too much involvement with the crowd.  The concert was extremely good overall, and my ears were still ringing this morning!

After doing some research, I found out that Lindsey Buckingham plays a Model One guitar from Turner Renaissance guitars that he helped design.  It seems that you too can own that guitar but since you have to email them to find out how much I’m guessing its probably more than I have to spend on a guitar (I emailed them anyway, curiosity got the best of me)!  Lindsey sure could shred that thing… his fingerpicking alone was outstanding.  There is a YouTube clip that shows the solo I mentioned above as evidence of his superior abilities.  I’m going to use the experience of watching him play as a target… if I can get 1/4 as good as he is at fingerpicking I will consider this venture a WILD success!

It was a very worthwhile concert, if they’re coming anywhere nearby everyone should take the opportunity to see them!  If you can’t do that, it seems that there’s already 33 YouTube clips from our concert to enjoy!