If you're committed to learning the guitar, it's inevitable that you're going to get into a rut from time to time. Ruts can last from a weeks to years and can be very frustrating but once you understand the psychology behind getting into a rut, you may even be able to avoid them altogether. This is a very useful skill to have since we have a finite amount of time on this planet and if you're serious about guitar, you'll probably want to be the best guitarist you can be for good chunk of that time. In this post we'll also look at a simple practice concept to also help you avoid getting into ruts on the guitar in the first place.
If you want to learn guitar online there are a plethora of options these days; and with technology playing an ever-increasing role in learning, new apps, tools, and interactive courses are cropping up every day. Where most of these are aimed at guitarists wanting to teach themselves, Veevar Guitar combines an online learning community with face-to-face tuition, which is great news for both students wanting to learn, and teachers wanting a steady paycheck. We were intrigued...
If you’ve been following this series, you can probably guess how we’re going to form eleventh arpeggios. If you haven’t, feel free to check out Part 1 and Part 2 as they’ll provide you with a solid foundation for incorporating arpeggios into your scalar playing or scales into your arpeggio playing, depending on how you’re seeing things. What I love about this approach is that I don’t have to think of a separate pattern for arpeggios and scales or make any drastic changes to my fingering when playing. All the information I need is right there under my fingers, I just have to notice it.
In Part 1, we looked at a way to pull arpeggios out of scales by looking at the bigger picture first, then focusing on a smaller part of it. This way, we were able to extract all the diatonic triad and seventh arpeggios and blend them with scales. In this second part, we’re going to use the same idea but expand it to ninth arpeggios, which have applications ranging from prog rock to jazz.
Truth be told, I always found arpeggios very challenging to learn and ended up trying to force them into my playing. At Music College we were given all these patterns to learn that you’d spend hours on end practicing, but which seemed to have little or no practical use or effect on your playing. Scales, on the other hand, were far more intriguing and offer fairly instant gratification when you go to improvise. This was all well and good and got me through in most playing situations, but I was still curious about arpeggios and desperately wanted to be able to incorporate that melodic edge into my playing; besides, it was getting to a point where I found it slightly embarrassing not knowing them…
I’ve been a huge fan of 4NPS (four-note-per-string) scales ever since I first saw them on the Allan Holdsworth REH DVD back when it was a video cassette in the late 90s. If you’ve ever seen Holdsworth play, you’ll probably be aware of his huge hands and equally impressive reach on the fretboard. 4NPS scales were clearly a walk in the park for Holdsworth, but what about the rest of us mere mortals? The main attraction (at least for me) of 4NPS scales is that there are no box patterns to learn, or fall into, as most take more than 12 frets to complete themselves. This can mean some pretty tricky stretches but as ever with guitar, there’s always more than one way to skin a cat. By the way, if you’re new to 4NPS scales, take a look at our primer here.
You can find tons of stuff on modes right here on the blog, but I’d like to share this quick exercise which tests whether you’re really hearing them or not. One of the major drawbacks of using patterns to navigate the fretboard is that your ear gets left out of the equation. If you can memorize a pattern, you don’t actually need to know what it sounds like to play it. For example, if I asked you to play the melodic minor scale, you’d most likely fire off a couple of patterns you know, which is fair enough but if I asked you to sing the scale and gave you a starting note, it would be another story. In this lesson, we’ll look at a way to bridge this gap and really internalize the sound of a mode, or any scale, beyond mechanically playing patterns.
Let’s face it, most free guitar courses are aimed at absolute beginners or those in their first year of playing. If you’re reading this blog (thank you), you’re probably not a beginner because I don’t do a lot of beginner stuff –the internet has that pretty much covered—and you’re looking to advance your playing, get past the intermediate plateau or perhaps get out of a rut. The following courses could be just what you need to make some much-needed progress. You can find these courses, and a ton of others, on the Udemy platform, which works great on any device and saves you trawling YouTube in the hopes of finding something halfway decent and probably getting distracted in the process.
Legato is a great skill for guitar players to incorporate into their arsenal and comes in many forms; the word translates to “tied together” meaning the player is linking a sequence or series of notes without any gaps between them. For this lesson, we’ll be using 3 different techniques to achieve legato: hammer-ons, pull-offs, and slides. Most guitarists will see legato in various song transcriptions but may run into issues early on with stamina or finger strength. The following exercises are designed to target the strength and stamina in your left hand. They will increase your ability to perform some wide stretches, ensure your legato note volumes are consistent and boost your overall left-hand strength.
It’s been a while since we’ve looked at blues soloing, so I thought I’d add to the Blues Soloing Tricks series of posts with a quick lesson on using the upper chord extensions to get a jazzier sound in standard blues progressions. This is a great way to make jazz-blues accessible by using a couple of things you most likely already know without having to wade through a ton of theory just to get a jazz-blues sound going.
What do Steve Morse, bluegrass and 10-year-old Japanese guitar prodigy Li-Sa-X have in common? The answer is that they’ve all mastered crosspicking, the most versatile picking technique available, yet one that’s barely used outside of the realms of bluegrass guitar playing. For the uninitiated, crosspicking is a form of alternate picking where the path of pick curves in and out of every string, thereby avoiding any unnecessary string-changing mechanics or issues when moving in either direction with the picking hand. It seems like the perfect solution for executing fast alternate picking licks, or even for leaving your picking hand on autopilot while your fretting hand wanders freely around the fretboard, so why isn’t everyone using it?
A common problem among guitarists is getting lost while improvising. There are many reasons for this, the most notorious one being an over-reliance on patterns. Patterns are a double-edged sword on guitar as they lend themselves well to getting you improvising in a relatively short period of time with a ‘paint-by-numbers’ approach but which in the long run will stifle your creativity, have you running out of ideas, as well as feeling lost on the fretboard. I’m not a fan of improvisation as an intellectual pursuit, so what I’d like to do in this lesson is give you a method for to find the happy medium between improvising freely and having a roadmap to guide you that doesn’t stifle your creativity.
Sometimes all it takes is a suggestion or a new perspective to jump-start your improvisation skills or give your solos a new lease of life, especially if you’re stuck in a rut. As guitarists we tend to fixate on scales, technique and chops when there are far more important areas to pursue when it comes to improvisation. In this article we get into some of the subtleties of improvisation and how to apply it to your playing to get better results.
Here’s an interesting concept for you to try out. I remember playing around with it unintentionally when I first began to look at major scale patterns and their modes across the whole neck to see how they laid out. I thought that I could play them 2 notes per string like pentatonic scales but then saw that I was missing out notes. Years later I realized that this is actually a pretty good phrasing exercise for modes and that purposely leaving notes out of the scale forces you to be more creative, among other benefits.
You hear this phrase a lot in guitar-related media, learning material and sales-type rhetoric – it’s the idea, or the promise that some kind of insight in the form of a lesson, course, or book will provide you with the tools to take your guitar playing to the next level. The ‘next level’ is somewhat of a vague concept and most guitarists probably take it to mean that after completing said lesson, course or book, their playing will be noticeably better. This is no bad thing, and I probably use the phrase myself from time to time but in this post, I’d like to go into the actual thing that made my playing undeniably better and did indeed take me to that ‘next level’.
In Part 1 we looked at the basic theory behind the harmonized major scale and how to learn four sets of root position chords that will give you over 300 if you include all 12 keys. These chords, and a solid understanding how and why they go together, will give you a firm basis to tackle pretty much any chord progression that’s thrown at you. In Part 2 we’re going to build on these basic chords by learning plenty of inversions that will give you even more options when comping, coming up with parts, or arranging with other instruments.
A great way to learn chords and chord progressions is to learn them in context, whether it be a song or the chord chart for a backing track (yes, don’t just wail over them, learn the chord progression). Chords are more easily understood and absorbed when you hear how they function in a progression as oppose to learning them in isolation from a chord book. In this quick lesson, we’ll look at an exercise to learn the harmonized major scale in a variety of keys.
Knowing what scales to use over a given chord progression was always shrouded in mystery for me until I understood diatonic and non-diatonic harmony. Don't worry though, this isn't a full-on theory lesson because what I want you to come away with is how to analyze a chord progression and have a solid idea of what scales you’re going to play so that you’ll be able to instinctively find the information on the fretboard, rather than just blowing over it with a pentatonic scale and hoping for the best. This kind of knowledge is incredibly useful in any band situation where you have either more than one guitarist, or you're trying to come up with guitar parts based on yours or someone else's ideas.
While the pentatonic scale is an incredibly useful tool for guitar players of the rock and blues variety, the standard method of learning the scale in five box shapes doesn’t do a lot to distinguish you from the next guy. So, what can you do to make your pentatonic playing stand out from the crowd? Well, you’ll be pleased to know that this isn’t another of those breaking out of scale boxes lessons; in fact, in this lesson I’m going to encourage you to stay well-within the confines of those beloved boxes.
You’ll find a lot of stuff on the internet about breaking out of scale patterns; some players suggest learning the modes (more boxes?) or throwing other intervals into the mix (still a box), playing horizontally up and down one string (not practical), and even learning arpeggios (yet more patterns). These approaches are all well and good, but don’t really get to the crux of why it’s so hard for guitarists to break away from those incredibly comfortable box positions, especially those of the minor pentatonic variety. Let me just say that there’s nothing wrong with playing in boxes; many guitarists have made lifelong careers out of it, and it might just be that you’re not melodic enough, and you need a more melodic approach to scales such as this one. If that doesn’t do it for you, you might want to consider the following…