Bath Guitar Studio
Tips of the day
Fed up with dropping your plectrums?
Try drilling a hole (about 5mm) through the middle and lo and behold, you've got a non-slip plectrum.
Alternatively, stick on a ring binder reinforcing disc, it works just as well.
Make your own plectrums.
Just cut out of an old credit card – gives you a good medium gauge plectrum.
Why pay £0.60, or more for plectrums?
If you search ebay you’ll find plectrums available for £6 per hundred, or £1 per 10.
Don’t like to waste old Guitar Strings?
They make great wires to hang picture frames.
Try using old nylon guitar strings on your ukulele – the G,B & E strings are perfect and sound nearly as good as Nylgut.
Do you like to eat rabbit?
Take a 1st, or 2nd, steel guitar string and a tent peg and you can make a great snare.
Want to make your steel strings last longer?
Get some Valve Oil (used for brass instruments) and a scrap of Chamois Leather, put a drop of oil in the middle of the shammy, wrap around a string and drag it up and down.
It sounds like nails on a blackboard, but clears the crud and corrosion off (and makes the strings faster).
Note: Only works on solid steel strings – i.e., 1st, 2nd & 3rd.
Do you play sitting down?
If so, try not to bend over the guitar too much, as you’ll never be able to relax if your lungs are compressed.
Do you play with nails?
If you crack, or split, one - just glue it back together with layers of tissue and nail varnish and file to shape.
Upbeat & Downbeat mean what they say.
When strumming – if the strum is on a beat strum down, if on the half beat strum up.
Do you find your strings stick in the nut?
Simply draw a pencil tip through the groove and the Carbon will lubricate the nut and stop the string sticking.
Keep a duster in your guitar case and wipe your strings down when you finish playing – they’ll last a lot longer and sound better too.
Don’t bother buying a digital Tuner, or Metronome.
Just download a free app. for your smart phone – the app. is a lot faster, more accurate and easier to use.
A no-brainer really.
Practising 20 minutes every day is much better than 2 hours once a week - and you will progress much faster.
Learn new pieces/songs - if you don't, your playing will stagnate.
Get yourself a teacher; if you can’t afford it try asking guitarist friends to help you.
Take care of your Instrument; keep it out of the sunlight, away from radiators, away from damp areas, and preferably at a constant temperature and humidity.
When there is a piece of music you want to learn, check out how other people play it on www.youtube.com – you can learn a lot from others interpretations.
If your wrist hurts when practising you are using the wrong position – your wrist should be relaxed and there should only be pressure between your thumb and fingers.
Change your strings regularly; about every 3 to 6 months for steel and every 6 to 12 months for nylon, depending on how much you play.
Try recording yourself playing – but don’t play it back immediately, wait a few months and you’ll see how much you’ve progressed.
Buy a Hard Case for your precious instrument – soft cases really don’t give adequate protection, and it will really spoil your day if you break the neck.
Cant’ read Guitar Tablature?
Learn - you need it!
There are lots of websites that teach you how – and nearly every piece of music you could want is available online.
Try to play with other musicians - it will help your timing no end.
Try playing to a metronome – you’ll be surprised how much it will improve your timing.
Always read through the music/tab before you play it - try to identify chords, position changes and suitable fingerings.
When practising a piece, play it at half speed, or less, it will give you time to see your errors – and correct them.
If you play an electric guitar check the intonation – the harmonic at the 12th fret should be exactly the same pitch as the note produced when you hold down the string at the 12th fret.
Practise, practise and more practise – that’s all it really takes to make a good guitarist.
Keep hand movements to a minimum – it will make you a much faster guitarist.
When playing Fingerstyle, never pluck outwards – always pluck down with the thumb and up with the fingers.
To get a balanced tone when Finger Picking – keep your right hand thumb about 1” (2.5cm) left of your fingers.
If you’re a Classical Guitarist take care of your nails - buy yourself a good Nail File and use a Ceylon style nail shape.
Don’t get disillusioned – remember; if someone else can play it – you can too!
When practising always play the new pieces first, while your attention is at full strength.
If you want to learn theory – get:
‘Introducing Music’ by Ottó Karolyí
Probably the best music theory book there is.
Try to learn all the notes on the fret board – essential for all instruments – but particularly important for Lead Guitar.
Don’t just play one style – try playing other styles – it will take you in directions you would never have thought of.
Learn to bend notes in pitch – semitone, tone, & 1 ½ tones.
Learn how to use both Classical Vibrato (left & right) and Rock Vibrato (up & down).
Download a free, or demo, guitar tab player program/app.
Find the tab(s) you want, load them into the program, slow the tempo right down and play along – a great way to improve your timing.
When fretting a string, if you’re pressing harder than you would press a door bell – you’re pressing too hard!
Correct your finger position.
Leave some space in your solos – silence can be just as musically valid as high speed shredding.
Try your fingers instead of a plectrum – after all, you have 5 picks built in!
Learn to read music – it will give you access to many different musical worlds.
Try playing Slide/Bottleneck Guitar – it’s great for learning how to play in tune with no frets to help you.
If you live in a humid, or damp environment, keep a Silica Gel bag in your instrument case to suck up the excess moisture, just microwave it, every so often, to keep it working.
Adjust your pickups – as high as possible on the treble side – as low as possible on the bass side (or until the sound balances).
Check your pitch accuracy when bending notes using a Chromatic Tuner.
If Jimi could play it – so can you!
Never solo over the Singer – learn to do tasty licks in between lines.
Learn Emaj, Em, E7 and Em7, add a barre – et viola – 48 chords, easy!
When strumming, don’t just flail around – rotate your wrist – much faster and more efficient.
If asked about Jimi – just say “God came down to Earth and walked amongst us for a while.”
Try playing Electric Guitar with your fingers – it works for the likes of Jeff Beck and Mark Knopfler.
Are your Classical Guitar Machine Heads stiff?
Just put a drop of fine oil (such as Valve Oil or Sewing Machine Oil), where the gears mesh and they’ll soon turn smoothly again.
Try to relax – sometimes the harder you try, the more you mess up.
When playing, if you look down all the strings should line up one behind the other – ie. on Guitar you should only see the 6th string – if you see more strings your position is wrong and will make left hand fingering more difficult.
Intelligence and long fingers may help – but what really counts is how much you want to play guitar.
When practising, try to enjoy yourself – it helps a lot.
Most good music provokes an emotional response – Bach shows you how to be one with the Universe.
Music is more difficult to read for the Guitar as you can get the same note in different places – but easy to allow for – just add 5 frets to any note usually on the 1st string that you want to play on the 2nd string, add a further 4 frets if you want it on the 3rd string.
Do similar for any other note on another string.
A Yamaha Guitalele makes a great travel guitar – cheap too!
Use Aquila Nylgut Strings on your Uke – it’s really not worth using anything else.
If you’re not enjoying yourself – play something else.
Learn to walk, before you run.
Keep your instrument where you can see it – you’ll be much more likely to play it.
Try Dorian Mode – instant Folk.
Play some Satie – better than meditation - for your audience too.
Now is the best time to play – after all there isn’t any other time.
You can’t think and play – if you’re thinking what happens next you’ve missed the beat – practise till it’s automatic.
Every musician should be able to play at least one J. S. Bach piece.
A good musician can make even a mediocre instrument sound good.
Don’t give up – you’ll get there in the end.
Try to go to concerts whenever you can – you never know what you might learn.
Check out the Chinese made Ukuleles on Amazon, some of them have solid tops and are very good for a fraction of the price of EU made Uke’s.
Try playing Slide on the Banjo – great fun.
Try a .007 first string set on your electric – bends like you wouldn’t believe.
Don’t just strum your Ukulele – try finger picking it – it’s capable of more than you might expect.
Use a thin flexible pick when strumming – it’s more efficient.
Learn to play the Blues – it’s the basis of most popular Western music.
Fretted instruments are easy to play badly – and very difficult to play well.
If you have a good Classical Guitar, try La Bella Concert 850 Strings – I’ve yet to find better.
Never scrimp on strings – get the best you can afford.
Try Old Time Sawmill tunes – Banjo doesn’t have to be full pelt Scruggs picking.
Be subtle in your playing – not everything has to be obvious.
When changing strings, do it one string at a time – otherwise you could damage your instrument.
If you find it difficult to hold your instrument - get a strap!
Get yourself a decent Uke – the cheap plywood ones just don’t cut it.
Music punctuates your life, your memories and your dreams.
Keep your left hand finger nails short enough so that when a finger presses vertically on a string the nail just touches the fretboard.
You may never reach perfection – but that’s no reason not to try.
If you need a Lute – do try the EMS Lutes, they’re really very good.
Don’t just use open G for slide – try open D (DADF#AD), it extends the range and will take you in different directions.
Don’t use Picks/Plectrums on Nylon strings – you can shatter the surface and break them – if you must use a pick, get a felt one.
Better to play slowly and well, than fast and badly.
If your Banjolele buzzs – try tuning it to D (A,D,F#,B), it should fix the problem.
Play a melody as if you were singing it.
I’ve taught thousands of pupils to play – if they can do it......so can you!