No piece of music is too difficult to play – although it may be too difficult for you to play at this moment – just be logical, practise a lot and you’ll get there in the end.
When playing a two part piece, Melody and Bass, keep the right hand thumb for the bass line and use alternating index and middle fingers for the melody – by far the most efficient and musical way to play it
Finger style guitarists can play screamers too (artificial harmonics) – simply use your picking hand index finger to position the harmonic and your middle (or ring) finger to pluck it.
If you just want to strum, or play lead, that’s fine – but the guitar is a polyphonic instrument and can play up to 4 parts simultaneously – such as a Bach Fugue – try it!
Learn to use rest strokes in your right hand (apoyando) – essential for bringing out the melody in a piece.
Practise finger independence by placing your hand flat on a table, then lifting the index and ring fingers only, put them down again and lift only the thumb, middle and little fingers – continue to alternate in this fashion.
Keep two written repertoire lists – one of pieces you can play now, and one of pieces you’d like to play in the future.
“Music in the soul can be heard by the universe.”
The so called ‘Caged System’ is only a marketing ploy – it is just bar chords based on open E and A, etc. – no great secret.
If you can play Guitar well, then you can play other fretted instruments as well.
“The guitar is a miniature orchestra in itself.”
Ludwig van Beethoven
Learn the difference between Shuffle and Swing.
Blues Shuffle turns a straight rhythm into 2/3 on the beat and 1/3 offbeat – Jazz swing is ¾ on the beat and ¼ offbeat.
Don’t just spend hours speeding up your lead playing – also spend time on your rhythm playing – as if you can’t hold a beat you’ll never be able to play well.
You must learn to damp any unwanted strings, especially on electric guitar as they will continue to sound much longer than on an acoustic, and possibly feedback.
As a musician you must take care of your hands – avoid anything that will make your hands rough, cut, sore, or otherwise, damaged.
Use tone changes when playing – nearer the bridge for a harder sound and nearer the neck for a softer sound – it will make your music much more expressive.
My goal in music, as in life, is not to be better than everyone else – but instead to continue being better than I am now.
Don’t just use the Am Pentatonic (Aeolian mode) – try Pentatonic Scales based on other modes as well, such as Mixolydian (G, B, C, D, E) for example – it will take you in new directions.
When finger picking don’t rest a finger on the front of your instrument – it is a crutch you do not need, and it will impede tone changes.
“Music is the shorthand of emotion.”
If your Guitar action is too high, or too low – first adjust the bridge height (if you can).
If that doesn’t fix the problem – check the neck for bowing:
If the neck is concave in the middle adjust the truss rod 1/8th turn counter clockwise,
If the neck is convex in the middle adjust the truss rod 1/8th turn clockwise,
Leave it for a few days and then check again.
Repeat the process as necessary – but be careful – you can damage the neck if you overdo it.
If you don’t really need a long Guitar Cable, use a shorter one.
The longer the cable the more signal you lose, and the more the high frequencies are cut.
Learning to strum is a good way to start on Guitar, or Ukulele, but don’t be satisfied with just that – you can take it much further if you try.
When playing sitting down keep your knee higher than your hip – it will stop your instrument sliding off your leg.
“Performance is the best laxative known to mankind”.
“Without music, life would be a mistake”
Can’t decide whether to get a Bluegrass Banjo, or a Folk one?
The only real difference is the Bluegrass Banjo has a resonator back – which you can always unscrew, remove it and you’ve got a folk banjo – best of both worlds
Set up your whammy bar so it floats – i.e. to give a semitone upward bend (a tone if you have a tuner whammy), you can then play bends with it.
“I played the Guitar for 10 years before I realised it wasn’t a weapon”.
There will always be pieces of music that you cannot yet play – but conquering them is half the fun of playing an instrument.
Always carry spare strings in your instrument case – sooner, or later, you will need them.
Music is like a dream – but one you have to dream yourself.
The Ukulele is capable of much more than you might think – try listening to Jake Shambikura, or Tamaine Gardner, and you’ll see what I mean.
You are never too old to learn to play an instrument.
Learn to tune using harmonics – orders of magnitude more accurate than tuners!
There is no intelligence without instrumentality.
Music is the ultimate meditation.
Sight reading isn’t difficult – you just need to keep doing it and you’ll get better.
Playing a musical instrument helps develop young brains and also helps in delaying dementia in old brains.
With music there is always more to learn.
It’s useful to learn how to play like other people – but you don’t want to sound like them, you want to sound like yourself.
Before amplification guitars needed heavy strings to keep up with the rest of the band – but no longer – so make it easy on yourself and use light strings.
“Those who dance appear insane to those that cannot hear the music.”
If you would like to extend the range of your Ukulele, try a low G string – it will give you an extra fourth (5 frets).
Always tune from below pitch to avoid the string sticking in the nut.
When changing Acoustic Guitar strings use the peg to push the ball end into the hole and make sure the ball end ends up resting against the side of the peg.
Treat your instrument well and it will serve you well.
Never put steel strings on a Classical Guitar – at best you will warp the neck, at worst you will rip off the bridge.
Life is too short to waste your time playing bad music.
Try playing Bach backwards – the Double’s and Two Part Invention’s work particularly well.
You don’t have to get everything off the internet – music books can still offer a great deal.
If you’ve written a piece of music that you can’t quite get right – try sleeping on it, often your subconscious will give you the inspiration to correct it.
If you try to play a piece that is too difficult for you it will be very frustrating – try some simpler pieces and build up to the one you want.
Listen to as much music as possible – there is something to be learnt from all styles.
There’s a ‘Highway to Hell’, a ‘Road to Nowhere’, but only a ‘Stairway to Heaven’.
If your Jack Sockets keep coming undone, tighten them up, then put a drop of Nail Varnish on the edge of the nut – problem solved.
Play some Japanese music – such as ‘Sakura’ (Cherry Blossom) – a whole different mindset.
Try a Deering Banjo – they’re expensive, weigh a ton – but really sound good!
If you can get the start and the end right – you can probably get away with a less than perfect middle.
Music is meditation – to play well you have to stop thinking in words – it will chill you out – and your audience as well.
There’s good music and there’s bad music – which you play is your choice alone.
If you’re a Guitarist wanting a Banjo sound – just get a six string Banjo and use your usual technique.
In the ‘Varietie of Lute Lessons’ (1610), John Dowland says that octaves on the bass strings are “irregular to the rules of musicke” – who am I to disagree.
You will make mistakes, everyone does, the trick is to learn from them.
Playing a slow piece is much more difficult than playing fast – you can’t get away with any mistakes.
Learn to tune your instrument without a tuner – one day the battery may go flat.
If your Lute has nylon frets – change them – nylon frets slide around and mess up your intonation – gut for frets is not expensive, and they’re easy to change.
If you make a mistake when performing – don’t let on – probably no one will notice.
Too loud for your neighbours?
Just roll up a tissue and put it under the strings, next to the bridge – voilá, instant mute.
Try to play something new at least once a week.
J.S.Bach is as good as music gets – except for Jimi of course.
Don’t wait until your technique is perfect before creating – just go for it anyway.
Playing with nails is like writing with a pen – instead of a lump of charcoal.
It’s not enough to think you can do it – you have to believe you can do it.
Try to keep an open mind towards musical styles you don’t yet know.
Thumb and Finger Picks are not obligatory on the Banjo – they just make it louder is all.
To get a nice jazz sound on your electric guitar – use a middle pickup with soft compression and a fairly slow chorus.
If you hit a bum note – just do it again and they’ll think it’s jazz.
Everyone should have Music, and Art, in their lives.
I’ve taught thousands of pupils to play – if they can do it……so can you!
Play a melody as if you were singing it.
If your Banjolele buzzs – try tuning it to D (A,D,F#,B), it should fix the problem.
Better to play slowly and well, than fast and badly.
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.
Don’t just use open G for slide – try open D (DADF#AD), it extends the range and will take you in different directions.
If you need a Lute – do try the EMS Lutes, they’re really very good.
You may never reach perfection – but that’s no reason not to try.
Keep your left hand finger nails short enough so that when a finger presses vertically on a string the nail just touches the fretboard.
Music punctuates your life, your memories and your dreams.
Get yourself a decent Uke – the cheap plywood ones just don’t cut it.
If you find it difficult to hold your instrument – get a strap!
When changing strings, do it one string at a time – otherwise you could damage your instrument.
Be subtle in your playing – not everything has to be obvious.
Try Old Time Sawmill tunes – Banjo doesn’t have to be full pelt Scruggs picking.
Never scrimp on strings – get the best you can afford.
If you have a good Classical Guitar, try La Bella Concert 850 Strings – I’ve yet to find better.
Fretted instruments are easy to play badly – and very difficult to play well.
Learn to play the Blues – it’s the basis of most popular Western music.
Use a thin flexible pick when strumming – it’s more efficient.
Don’t just strum your Ukulele – try finger picking it – it’s capable of more than you might expect.
Try a .007 first string set on your electric – bends like you wouldn’t believe.
Try playing Slide on the Banjo – great fun.
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 to go to concerts whenever you can – you never know what you might learn.
Don’t give up – you’ll get there in the end.
A good musician can make even a mediocre instrument sound good.
Every musician should be able to play at least one J. S. Bach piece.
You can’t think and play – if you’re thinking what happens next you’ve missed the beat – practise till it’s automatic.
Now is the best time to play – after all there isn’t any other time.
Play some Satie – better than meditation – for your audience too.
Try Dorian Mode – instant Folk.
Keep your instrument where you can see it – you’ll be much more likely to play it.
Learn to walk, before you run.
If you’re not enjoying yourself – play something else.
Use Aquila Nylgut Strings on your Uke – it’s really not worth using anything else.
A Yamaha Guitalele makes a great travel guitar – cheap too!
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.
Most good music provokes an emotional response – Bach shows you how to be one with the Universe.
When practising, try to enjoy yourself – it helps a lot.
Intelligence and long fingers may help – but what really counts is how much you want to play guitar.
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.
Try to relax – sometimes the harder you try, the more you mess up.
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 playing Electric Guitar with your fingers – it works for the likes of Jeff Beck and Mark Knopfler.
If asked about Jimi – just say “God came down to Earth and walked amongst us for a while”.
When strumming, don’t just flail around – rotate your wrist – much faster and more efficient.
Learn Emaj, Em, E7 and Em7, add a barre – et viola – 48 chords, easy!
Never solo over the Singer – learn to do tasty licks in between lines.
If Jimi could play it – so can you!
Check your pitch accuracy when bending notes using a Chromatic Tuner.
Adjust your pickups – as high as possible on the treble side – as low as possible on the bass side (or until the sound balances).
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.
Try playing Slide/Bottleneck Guitar – it’s great for learning how to play in tune with no frets to help you.
Learn to read music – it will give you access to many different musical worlds.
Try your fingers instead of a plectrum – after all, you have 5 picks built in!
Leave some space in your solos – silence can be just as musically valid as high speed shredding.
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.
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.
Learn how to use both Classical Vibrato (left & right) and Rock Vibrato (up & down).
Learn to bend notes in pitch – semitone, tone, & 1 ½ tones.
Don’t just play one style – try playing other styles – it will take you in directions you would never have thought of.
Try to learn all the notes on the fret board – essential for all instruments – but particularly important for Lead Guitar.
If you want to learn theory – get:
‘Introducing Music’ by Ottó Karolyí
Probably the best music theory book there is.
When practising always play the new pieces first, while your attention is at full strength.
Don’t get disillusioned – remember; if someone else can play it – you can too!
If you’re a Classical Guitarist take care of your nails – buy yourself a good Nail File and use a Ceylon style nail shape.
To get a balanced tone when Finger Picking – keep your right hand thumb about 1” (2.5cm) left of your fingers.
When playing Fingerstyle, never pluck outwards – always pluck down with the thumb and up with the fingers.
Keep hand movements to a minimum – it will make you a much faster guitarist.
Practise, practise and more practise – that’s all it really takes to make a good guitarist.
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.
When practising a piece, play it at half speed, or less, it will give you time to see your errors – and correct them.
Always read through the music/tab before you play it – try to identify chords, position changes and suitable fingerings.
Try playing to a metronome – you’ll be surprised how much it will improve your timing.
Try to play with other musicians – it will help your timing no end.
Can’t 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.
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.
Try recording yourself playing – but don’t play it back immediately, wait a few months and you’ll see how much you’ve progressed.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Get yourself a teacher; if you can’t afford it try asking guitarist friends to help you.
Learn new pieces/songs – if you don’t, your playing will stagnate.
Practising 20 minutes every day is much better than 2 hours once a week – and you will progress much faster.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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 like to eat rabbit?
Take a 1st, or 2nd, steel guitar string and a tent peg and you can make a great snare.
Try using old nylon guitar strings on your ukulele – the G,B & E strings are perfect and sound nearly as good as Nylgut.
Don’t like to waste old Guitar Strings?
They make great wires to hang picture frames.
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.
Make your own plectrums.
Just cut out of an old credit card – gives you a good medium gauge plectrum.
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.
Bath Guitar Studio
16 Park Street