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New Year Guitar Resolutions 2014

Around this time each year I like to look ahead and set a few goals for the coming year.  In this space I would like to share with you a few of my musical goals as well as suggest a few for my students and for those that haven't pulled the trigger on learning the guitar.

1.  Learn an instrument.  May I suggest the guitar?  This has got to be on the top ten list of all resolutions that are ever made, and it's a good one!  You may not feel like you have the time because you are busy with school, work, children, etc.  Learning an instrument, like any art form, is a life long process.  You take it with you through all your seasons of life.  And, I don't need to tell you, time flies.  Children grow up and move out, jobs change, retirement comes, and now you have a little more time.  Take your instrument along with you on your life journey.

2.  Memorize more music.  This one is for me and you.  I read so much music, that I actually resist memorizing it.   Every year I pick 2 to …

Bollywood - Chura Liya Hai Tumne

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Here is another student song request.  This is the popular Bollywood song Chura Liya Hai Tumne.  The opening notes are played to the rhythm of two glasses clinking (this is how the song begins).  This is followed by an Asus2 chord.  I strum this chord with an upstroke, slightly breaking up the chord as I take my pick from the first string to fifth.  I am playing the song slower than the original.  I hope this helps as you play along with me!


Silent Night - Finger Style

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Here is (I hope) as simple arrangement of Silent Night.  It is in the key of G and consist of melody and bass.  Below is a video to help with your practice.  Merry Christmas!!

Scarborough Fair Ensemble - Audio

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Here is the audio for Scarborough Fair.  It is written for three guitars - melody, bass, and accompaniment  in the middle line.  The song is in 3/4 time (three beats in every measure).  Be sure to practice your part with the recording.


Bollywood - Yegna Pona Raasa

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I really like the finger style playing in this song.  Wasn't expecting it to be in 7/8 time (count 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7 when you play this song).  This song is played with a Capo at the 5th fret.




Bollywood - Hairat Hai Hairat Hai

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Great rock riff at the beginning of this song.  Great recommendation for the Bollywood Workshop.  I think everyone can learn to play this.  It's a little fast, but we can slow it down a bit.


Bollywood - Ambarisariya

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Here is a song that was request for one of my Bollywood workshops.  It's not a beginner level song.  The bar chords and strumming pattern (lots of fret hand muting) is what will make it challenging for beginners.  However, it is possible to play the chords as open position chords and make it more of a "campfire style" song.



Scarborough Fair - Finger Style Solo

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Here is a merging of Simon and Garfunkel's "Scarborough Fair" and the melody.  Hope you like it!



The Basics - The Fret Hand - Holding and Playing Notes

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The hand that you use to hold down strings is called your fret hand.  For most players, this is the left hand.  Here are a few tips on using this hand properly.


Play on the very tip of your fingers.  The top joint of your finger should be about level with the string and the tops of your finger nails will be facing up (see first photo).The thumb should be low on the guitar neck, opposite your middle finger (see second photo).Play as close to the fret as you can, but not on it.Be sure to press the string all the way down until it touches the wood on the guitar neck.Use just enough pressure to make the note work.  There is no benefit to squeezing the note hard. Try playing a note on each string on the guitar.  Pick any fret that you would like to play.

The Basics - Holding a Pick

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You would think that holding a pick between your thumb and index finger would be simple.  However, teaching a student how to hold and use a pick is similar to teaching a child how to hold and use a pencil for the first time.  The photo below shows the ideal way to hold the pick.


Notice that the point of the pick is coming out of the side of the thumb.The pick is held between the thumb and the side of the index finger (towards the finger tip).Don't squeeze the pick too hard.  Hold it just enough that you won't drop it and you feel that you still have some mobility in all your fingers.
Learning how to use a pick is critical (for those that use a pick) for producing good tone on the guitar.  If you hold the pick too tight, you may hear lots of buzzing and a tone that is not pleasing to your ears.  Hole the pick too loose, and the sound of your instrument will not project well (and you may drop the pick right into the sound hole).  I guess what I'm trying to say is you need to …

Talkin' Bout A Revolution - Tracy Chapman

If you're looking for lots of practice switching from G to Cadd9 to Em and D, this is the song for you!  Notice that the Cadd9 and D change on the up beat (up strum).  Have fun!



Get the song here

GarageBand App For Practicing - Part 2 (Quick Tour)

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Before we get started let me remind you that we will be using GarageBand for Apple iOS devices like the iPhone and iPad.  We will not be using GarageBand for the Mac.  While many of the features you will see in these blog posts are also on the Mac version, the iOS version has some special features that won't be available on the Mac.  This is because of the unique touchscreen interface found only on the iOS version of GarageBand.

Also, I'll be posting screen capture images taken from an iPad.  So, iPhone users may have to hunt a bit more to find the same features, but they are there.

One last thing, I'm assuming you know nothing about GarageBand, so I'm going to take this form the very beginning.  For those of you who catch on to this kind of thing quickly these posts may go to slowly for you.  If so just skip ahead to another blog post (or wait for another one), otherwise stay with us as we walk through this.

GarageBand Basic Functionality
OK, lets look as some basic funct…

GarageBand App For Practicing - Part 1 (Introduction)

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On April 24th of this year The Guitarist hosted a workshop focused on using GarageBand (for iOS devices) as a practicing tool.  The objective of the workshop was to familiarize the participants with some of the features of GarageBand (of which there are many!) and to show how easily the GarageBand app can be used as a practicing tool.

The workshop was well attended and was taught by (yours truly) Mike Mckenna, former teacher at The Guitarist, co-author of "I've Always Wanted To Play Guitar", guitarist, and GarageBand user.  We had a great time going over the key features of GarageBand and how it can be used on both the iPhone and iPad to greatly enhance your practicing time.

Let's face it, practice time with your guitar can be, shall we say...less than inspirational when playing alone.  This is especially true if you have only your handy-dandy, but not so personal, metronome's relentless tick-tocking away.  I don't know about you, but prolonged exposure to a me…

Here Comes the Sun - Fingerstyle

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Here is a fingerstyle arrangement of The Beatles "Here Comes the Sun."  I always look forward to teaching this song in my group classes.  Be sure to practice and stick with your classes.  This song is worth the wait!

This arrangement consists of melody with an alternating bass line.  To match the key of the song, play it with a capo at the seventh fret.


Handle With Care - Traveling Wilburys

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"Handle With Care" is a song by the supergroup the Traveling Wilburys.  Here is a video of the main riff.  You here this riff played as the intro and for the first four measures of the verse.  Played slowly, of course!



Download "Handle With Care" here Handle With Care - The Traveling Wilburys Collection

Home - Philip Philips

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"Home" is a great "travis picking" style song by Philip Philips.  The song is very, very fast so here is the verse played slowly.  I hope it's slow enough for you to play along!


Be sure to download the song here Home - The World from the Side of the Moon (Deluxe)

Bollywood - Pani Da Rang

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Here's a quick tutorial on the popular Bollywood song "Pani Da Rang."  I am playing the song very slowly, so hopefully you can follow along.

1.  The intro alternates between two chords, Em7 and D add4 (this is just a C chord moved up two        frets).  Then strum a C chord and Dadd4 once each.
2.  The main groove to the song starts with an Em chord.  The strum that I am using goes like this:       D DD U  D  DD U   DDU  (D=Down, U=Up).  Get it??
3.  After this, I simplify the strum to more of a "campfire" type strum that you can use for the rest of the song.  I'm alternating between Em and D and then between C and D (main chords to the song).  I am repeating this pattern:  D DD UDU
4.  Finally, there is a simple melody that gets played after the verse.  It's pretty easy, and I think you could it up by watching the video.

If you notice something that I am missing, please comment.

I have produced a basic tab for the song.  Please request at your next cla…

Theory Workshop One, Two, and Three - Summary

Topics covered in Theory Worksop One:
Half Steps and Whole Steps.The musical alphabet.Sharps and flats and the chromatic scale.Mapping out all the notes on the guitar fretboard.Major scale construction.The circle of fifths.Five major scale patterns on the guitar.
Topics covered in Theory Workshop Two:
Intervals - Major, minor, diminished, and augmented.Chord construction - Major, minor, diminished, and augmented.Harmonizing the major scale.The Major scale chord formulaAdding Sevens to chords - Major Seven, minor seven, half diminished sevens. Topics covered in Theory Workshop Three: This Workshop is all about chord construction.  You will learn how you can use your knowledge of the major scale to construct any chord.  Here are a few of the chords you will learn how to construct. Major Chords - major 6, major 7, major 9Minor Chords - minor 7, minor 9Dominant Chords - dominant 7, 9 and 13Sus chords - Sus 2, Sus 4Add chords - Add 2, add 4, add 9

Sound of Silence - Acoustic Intro

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Here is a beautiful intro to Sound of Silence played by Paul Simon during the Simon & Garfunkel Old Friends Tour.  Capo is at the Seventh fret.  I notice that when Paul Simon sings the song as a solo, the capo is at the third or fourth fret.  I'm looking forward to sharing this with all my students.


Useful App for Guitarist

I wanted to recommend an app that I have been using a lot for my lesson and my personal practice its called GuitarToolkit - Agile Partners .  Here's a description from the company's web site.

GuitarToolkit is a collection of essential guitar tools for your iPhone, iPad and iPod touch. An extremely accurate tuner, a precision metronome, more than two million chords, scales and arpeggios -- GuitarToolkit has it all and tons more. It’s so good, Apple inducted GuitarToolkit in the App Store Hall of Fame


For theory students, the chords, scales and arpeggio resource is great.  As you learn a new chord you can look up how you can hold that chord all across the fretboard.  If you want to play the G major scale, you can see all possible positions of the G major scale (or any other scale).
If you're in my one of my Music Theory Workshops, bring it with you.


Very useful app, worth the money.  

Walk Don't Run - EZ Melody

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Here is a simple way to play The Venture's "Walk Don't Run."  I hope I am playing this slowly enough for everyone to play along.


Theory Workshop One - Summary

Here is a quick summary of what is covered in Theory Workshop One.


Half Steps and Whole Steps.The musical alphabet.Sharps and flats and the chromatic scale.Mapping out all the notes on the guitar fretboard.Major scale construction.The circle of fifths.Five major scale patterns on the guitar.

Scarborough Fair Melody

Here is a simple way to play the melody to Scarborough Fair.  You can find the chords to this song in my method book "I've Always Wanted to Play Guitar"  If you have my method book, be sure to download all the music.


The "Hit" Strum

Here's a demonstration of the "Hit" strum (that's what I call it).  I am holding an Em chord and playing a basic 4/4 strumming pattern.  I am putting a percussive "hit" on beats two and four.  First I play the pattern slowly and then a little faster.  Try cupping your hand so that when you strum your pick and the side of your hand (by your pinky finger) hit the strings at the same time.

If you want to hear this pattern, listen to the begin of "Proud Mary" by Creedence Clearwater Revival (CCR).   


Maunaloa Slack Key Guitar

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This is the beginning to the song "Maunaloa" written by Helen Parker.  This is an example of a song that is played in Hawaiian Style Slack Key, orKi Ho'alu.   It is played in G tuning (Taro Patch Tuning) which is D G D G B D (sixth string to first).  I am playing from a transcription found in Ozzie Kotani's book "Guitar Playing Hawaiian Style."

If you're interested in learning more beginner level Slack-Key songs, I highly recommend Ozzie's book.  You can get a copy from Amazon (link below), or pick up a copy here at the studio.


3AM Chorus

Here's the Chorus to Matchbox Twenty's 3AM.  Hope this helps with your practice!

3AM Intro

Here's the intro to Matchbox Twenty's 3AM.  Hope you enjoy working on this song!

Get a Hobby! Play Guitar (or Bass, Drums, Piano, etc.)

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I recently picked up a new student that had just retired from working in the high tech industry for over 30 years.  During those years he has played guitar off and on.  He told me when he graduated from college  the commencement speaker gave all the graduates one bit of advice.  Get a Hobby.  The speaker said that during your life you will most likely go from job to job, move from city to city, have children that will grow up and move out, and then you will retire.  A hobby was something you could take with you on your journey through life.   My student is now retired and he is so thankful he stuck with playing his guitar.  He is excited to get some formal guitar instruction.  I'm excited to have him as a student and to teach him a few new techniques and songs.  Get Hobby!  Good advice.

The Way by Fastball - Strum Pattern

I think this is a great acoustic strumming pattern for The Way by "Fastball."  You can hear a pattern similar to this starting in verse two.  I am playing the strum slowly.  I hope everyone will play along!

Bollywood - Kholo Kholo

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Here I am playing along to the Bollywood song "Kholo Kholo."  This song was recommended by several students.  Once I heard it, I wanted to transcribe it and learn to play it! Now I'm ready to teach it to all my students.  This song has a great riff and some beautiful open string chords.

The song is slightly slowed down in this video.  My hope is that you will play along with me!


Bollywood - Give Me Some Sunshine - 3 Idiots - Basic Strum and Guitar Solo

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Here is a video demonstration of the very popular, and highly requested Bollywood song "Give Me Some Sunshine."

The strumming pattern has a 16th note feel to it.  I am using a simple F chord (not a bar form) for a quick and easy switch to and from the C chord.

In the first video I play the intro twice and then I run through the verse chords twice, ending on a c chord.  I hope you are able to follow and play along with me.

The second video I play along to the guitar solo.  So, grab your electric guitars and let's rock out together!





San Francisco - The Mowgli's

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San Francisco by The Mowgli's is a  fun, feel good song.  Thanks to one of my students for recommending it, now all of you can enjoy it too!

I chose to play this with the capo on the fourth fret.  The opening chords are Em, G, Em, G, C, G and B7.  I suspect that on the actual recording, they have tuned their guitars down by a half step and are playing Am, C, Am, C, F, C and E7.  I don't like tuning my guitar down, so on goes the capo at fret four.

I also included the intro melody which is heard throughout the song.  I am playing this slowly, so please play along with me.



Boulevard of Broken Dreams - Strumming Pattern

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Here's a great strumming pattern for Boulevard of Broken Dreams by Green Day.  This pattern is in Four Four time.

The count goes like this:  one    two and a   three    four  and a



The version of this song I use in class comes from the American Idiot broadway play.  You can find it here:


Stubborn Love Intro - The Lumineers

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Here is a video you can use to practice the intro to Stubborn Love by The Lumineers.  I am tapping on my guitar to fill up the space between chord changes.  I am also playing it a lot slower than the original recording.  Enjoy!




Barcarolle by Napoleon Coste

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If you can learn this piece well, maybe you can work as Venetian Gondolier.  However, it would be hard to paddle and play your guitar at the same time.
Enjoy!

I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For

This song by U2 is a great song for beginner guitarist.  Just put a capo on the fourth fret and strum the A and D2 chord.  A simple 4/4 strum is all that is needed.

The best way to practice, is to play along with the song.  You can download the song here

500 Miles From Home

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Here is an arrangement of " 500 Miles From Home" by Pete Huttlinger.  Play along!



The Barricades of Heaven - Jackson Browne

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We will use a basic 4/4 strumming pattern to play through the chords.  There are a few chords that will switch on the up beat during the chorus, but other than that, this is a fairly straight forward song.

There's a really cool riff that is played between verses.  Watch the video below to hear how I would play it on an acoustic guitar.

Be sure to play along with the recording.





Ho Hey - The Lumineers

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I love playing this song!  It's got a great 16th note feel in the strumming pattern that is played over the verses, and then goes into a Bluegrass "Boom-Chuck" strum in the bridge and chorus.  This will be lots of fun to play in class.


Get your copy of  Ho Hey and play along!



New Year's Guitar Resolutions 2013

It's that time of year when we all should reflect on last year and celebrate our successes and learn from our mistakes. It's also time to look ahead and set our personal and professional goals. Below are five New Year's Guitar Resolutions that I hope you will consider.

1. Enjoy Playing Your Guitar. I once worked really hard on a piece that I was asked to perform and, whenever I played it during rehearsals, I was tense and always had a very serious look on my face. Once, just before performing it, someone said to me, "Don't forget to have fun!" I'm guilty of taking my music too seriously at times. If you want to take the fun out of your music, just demand perfection in your playing. I want to encourage you to try a different approach. Every time you make a mistake, smile and say to yourself, "I'll get it next time." Work hard, practice, but don't forget to enjoy the journey!

2. Practice smarter. Now that I got resolution #1 out o…