Tuesday, July 24, 2018

Guitar Crash Course - Lesson 1 - Getting Set Up

This lesson covers a brief introduction to the guitar:

1. Parts of the Guitar

2. How to hold the guitar.

3. How your hands work.

4. Practice striking notes.

Crash Course for new guitar players.

Sunday, July 22, 2018

Guitar crash course outline

What would a crash course in guitar include? 

First, it would describe how a guitar is typically constructed: the parts of the guitar.

Second, it would explain what the frets do: how they are related to other instruments, like the piano. Some really basic music theory.

Third, it would explain the proper technique for fingering the strings.

Fourth, it would explain the proper way to strike the strings with your fingers or with a pick.

Fifth, it would outline how the guitar is tuned, and why, and have you learn the string names.

Sixth, it would explain where to find some important reference points on the fretboard: the most important notes, other than the open string notes. Such as G, C, and D.

Seventh, it would explain how to play some basic major scales, most likely starting with G, C and D.

Eighth, it would have you work on a few simple tunes such as Ode to Joy, Three Blind Mice, Twinkle Twinkle.

Ninth, it would introduce you to some basic chords, first in two and three string versions, then in 4 string versions.

Tenth, it would introduce some songs that can be played with one and two chords.

Believer practice track

Here's a practice track for the smash 2017 hit "Believer" by Imagine Dragons. Believer practice track

Fender vs Gibson

Here's an older article (2015) addressing this perennial question: Fender vs. Gibson

Thursday, July 19, 2018

Have You Ever Seen The Rain practice track

"Have You Ever Seen the Rain?" was written by John Fogerty and released as a single in 1971 from the album Pendulum (1970) by Creedence Clearwater Revival.

Fogerty was reflecting on the band's conflicts that had arisen from their rapid rise to stardom. In an interview he stated that the song was written about the fact that they were on the top of the charts, and had surpassed all of their wildest expectations of fame and fortune. They were rich and famous, but somehow all of the members of the band at the time were depressed and unhappy. Thus the line "Have you ever seen the rain, coming down on a sunny day."

 CCR had a brilliant and extremely short lifespan with most of their memorable work being done between 1969 and 1970. But many of their songs are classics that live on because they are beautifully simple.

See more variations of Have You Ever Seen The Rain practice track.

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Home on the Range Practice Track

"Home on the Range" is regarded by many as the unofficial anthem of the American west and has actually been adopted as the state song of Kansas.

The song is based on a poem written by Dr. Brewster Higley in 1871. He had moved to Kansas under he Homestead Act, and was so inspired by his new surroundings that he wrote the poem in praise of the setting.

It was put to music a bit later by Daniel E. Kelley, and published to sheet music in 1925. The most famous version was recorded by Bing Crosby in 1933, and the song eventually became a kind of western hymn.

An animated Disney film by the same name was released in 2004.

This practice arrangement of "Home on the Range" is available in several keys, and is a great practice track for new guitar players.

Monday, July 16, 2018

Greensleeves Practice Track

"Greensleeves" is an ancient English ballad that first appeared in published form in around the 1580s.

Many have claimedf that Greensleeves was composed by Henry VIII for his lover and future queen consort Anne Boleyn. Boleyn allegedly rejected King Henry's attempts to seduce her, and this rejection may be referred to in the song when the writer's love "cast me off discourteously". However, the Italian style of composition used in the song did not reach England until after Henry's death, making it more likely to be Elizabethan in origin.

Many Christians know the tune as "What Child is This?", a popular Christmas hymn.

The Greensleeves practice track has a melody line in various keys, with piano and bass guitar accompaniment.

Sunday, July 15, 2018

Overcoming that feeling of "Burnout"

Here are some good suggestions for dealing with creative burnout. When things just aren't going the way you'd like, and you think you maybe should quit beating your head against the wall, there are some practical things you can do to step back and get a better perspective on things...

8 Things to Do When You Experience Creative Burnout...

Friday, July 13, 2018

3 String Chords on the Guitar

These Level 1 Chord Exercises help you work on 3 note chords. First, because you’re a beginner and they are easier. And second because they may help you see chords in a different light.

When playing a chord you do not have to use all six strings. Three is enough. And, in the case of "power chords" 2 is all it takes.

Technically speaking a major chord is a triad consisting of the 1, 3 and 5 tones of the major scale. For example, C major consists of C-E-G, or some "inversion" of those notes.

Power chords normally consist of the 1 and 5 tones played on two lower strings.

Monday, July 9, 2018

A Mandolin is not a Guitar

When I was a kid my dad had an old mandolin that would get played every now and then. It eventually got broken, but an attachment to the instrument has stuck with me all these years.

Obviously a mandolin is not a guitar. It has a unique sound of its own because, like a 12 string guitar, each course has two identical (and identically tuned) strings. It is tuned like a fiddle, and these days is used mostly (it seems) by bluegrass bands.

Here's a good article about the difficulty of tuning a mandolin.

Sunday, July 8, 2018

Trumpets and Cornets - What's the Difference?

The Trumpet and Cornet are similar. They are both members of the "brass" family of instruments. This means they are played the same way - through a very similar mouthpiece. You get a sound by "buzzing" your lips in the mouthpiece.
Both trumpet and cornet have three valves. They both consist of approximately 4.5 ft. of wound tubing. And they are both tuned the same way. Standard models are pitched at Bb relative to concert pitch.
The cornet appears to be shorter than the trumpet, but that is because the tubing is wound in a tighter pattern. 
More importantly, the "bore" of the trumpet (i.e., the diameter of the tubing) is different. On a trumpet the tubing is the same diameter from the mouthpiece to the point at which the bell starts to flare out. 
On a cornet the "bore" starts out a bit smaller at the mouthpiece and gradually increases throughout the full length of the tubing, until it flares out at the bell. This gives the cornet a warmer, softer sound more akin to the human voice.
The trumpet, on the other hand has a more brilliant, brighter, and some would say, more piercing sound.
Popularity and Usage
Cornets have traditionally been more widely used in British military inspired Brass Bands where they are paired up with other brass instruments. 
Trumpets are more typically used in orchestras, jazz bands, and ensembles where they provide the upper range "punch", and serve as solo instruments. 
Trumpets became more popular in the early to mid 1900s with the popularity of professional players such as Louis Armstrong, Harry James, Miles Davis, Al Hirt, Bert Kaempfert, Herb Alpert, among many others.
Which one should I play?
Children often start on cornets because they are a bit smaller and lighter, but this is quickly changing as lighter plastic-based trumpets are becoming more available and more reliable.
If you  play in a jazz ensemble or high school band, you'll probably choose a trumpet (or it will be chosen for you.) If you like jazz or dixieland music, or have a flair for soloing, you'll also probably gravitate fairly quickly to the trumpet.

Saturday, July 7, 2018

Guitar Instruction has to connect

There are hundreds of free guitar lessons and demonstrations on Youtube. Many of them link to websites where you can find more free lessons, and, more frequently, packages of instructional videos you have to pay to access or download.
How effective are free guitar lessons like this? Can they be as good as traditional lessons involving a face-to-face teacher?
Not all lessons are of the same quality or effectiveness
It hardly needs saying, but some online lessons are good and some are bad. Some teachers have a great way of communicating with their viewers and some don’t. Some hit just the right subject matter, and some talk about stuff you’re completely uninterested in, or not ready to tackle.
So the first thing you should look for – whether you’re at the beginner, intermediate or advanced student level – is an interesting and engaging presentation. The teacher should speak clearly, get straight to the point, and not waste your time demonstrating what a great guitarist he or she is.
Secondly, and even more important, the subject matter should be appropriate to your own level of development. If you’re a raw beginner there’s no point in watching an advanced presentation of blues soloing, or even an intermediate level demonstration of barre chording. You’ll just get frustrated trying to do things you can’t possibly master yet.
There are different levels of instruction
A lot of guitar instructors are accomplished guitarists, and they want you to know it. They will often begin each video with a dazzling display of their soloing capabilities. This is supposed to inspire confidence that they know what they are talking about. But in my experience, students – especially beginning students – don’t care how well the teacher can play. They just want assurance the teacher knows what they are talking about.

One of the greatest golf instructors of all time, Harvey Penick, spent part of the last few years of his life in a wheelchair. I don’t think his students minded one bit. In fact it might have made them more attentive, and more impressed by his devotion to teaching than they otherwise might have been.
Back a few years ago when I sang in the university choir – the next best thing to a professional choir – I can’t ever remember our choirmaster actually singing. In fact I think most of us would have been shocked if he would have broken into song. Occasionally he’d give us the pitch with his voice, but to call that ”singing” would be a stretch.
The point here is that teachers can inspire confidence in their students in surprising ways. Students get value from instruction that is geared to them personally, and that is suited to their particular level of accomplishment.
Is it possible to do this in a series of online videos? Yes, of course it is. But just remember that there is no such thing as a lesson suitable for everyone.

Wednesday, July 4, 2018

Is Achy Breaky Heart one of the worst songs of all time?

"Achy Breaky Heart" was recorded by Miley Cyrus' dad - Billy Ray Cyrus - in 1991. It was a smash hit for Cyrus and made him famous. This song and line dancing are pretty much synonymous.

 According to Wikipedia, "The song is considered by some as one of the worst songs of all time, featuring at number two in VH1 and Blender's list of the "50 Most Awesomely Bad Songs Ever." [It's hard to say if this is a bad thing or a good thing.] "However it is recognized as a transitional period in country music where Cyrus brought renewed interest in a dying breed of music amongst younger listeners."

The arrangement on PracticeTracks.org captures the best aspects of the song and is very cool for new guitar players to strum along with.

Check it out...  Achy Breaky Heart