Recent Gig rig

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I have been playing some dates recently with Bristol based band Moscow Drug Club. Thought I’d share my rig from a recent show. Here I am using my John le Voi oval hole that is my main guitar for gigging. This is going through an AER via an audio technical AT31B clip on mic. Really pleased with the sound of this mic, really helps capture the sound of the instrument. At the odd gig I have ran into feedback problems, but 9/10 it works for me without having to resort to the bridge piezo pickup (bigtone). I have no love for the bigtone, it is pure functionality and offers a very bland sound (and this guitar sounds anything but bland!).

For a few electric numbers I used my ’59 330 reissue with factory fitted bigsby. This was going through the Fender Deluxe reverb ’65 reissue. For anyone considering a deluxe, it is far too much volume for home use, but for this particular gig it was perfect. People say Fender twins are heavy, but so is this to lug around! I find the vibrato a bit noisy when playing solo, but with a band the noise isn’t audible. It’s like a ticking noise as I presume the effect is applied even when you’re note playing. The amp has a wonderful clean tone and the combination of Gibson into a Fender amp always sounds good to my ears!

The Beatles: Something

 

I saw Paul McCartney last year and loved his arrangement of ‘Something’. He played the first half solo with his ukulele and then the band kicked in for the solo. I tried to go along those lines, didn’t turn out quite as I thought it would, bit of a clash of styles, but it was fun to do! The verse has one of my favourite chord sequences.

I’ve been listening to a lot of Bill Frisell lately, particularly his recordings of Beatles songs. So I guess his influence has rubbed off.  I initially checked out a Ted Greene arrangement, but ended up working out my own thing.

Excuse the one fingered bass playing, injured my middle finger 😦

The rhythm guitar is played with a capo at fret 3. Harrison originally wrote the song in A (check out the demo version) and then put a capo on for the album version, this gives you some of the open strings that you wouldn’t have with barre chords.  Harrison apparently told McCartney to play a simple bass line……message must have not registered!

Here is a great version from the Concert for George:

Hold Back the River

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It’s great to hear guitar music in the charts and James Bay is certainly proving popular with my students. Hold Back the River is a great tune and a good introduction to pinching with right hand rather than using a pick.

Like me James, seems to favour red guitars and plays a cherry Epiphone Century from 1966! Here’s the tab of the main riff. Try to add vibrato at the end of each phrase to sustain each note. A good amount of reverb helps too.

PDF:

James Bay Hold Back the river main riff

The final phrase of the song is most challenging. I prefer to use my thumb to play the note on the 8th fret low E string.

 

B minor atmospheric backing track

 

As a bit of New Year’s resolution I decided that given all of the backing tracks I use on YouTube it was about time I gave something back and put up some of my own. My first backing track is in the key of B minor. It contains the following chords:

  • B minor
  • G maj7
  • E7/G#
  • Aadd9
  • D maj7
  • F#7
  • Asus4

I suppose it’s an intermediate backing track as you can’t use the same scale throughout. The chords to watch out for are E7 and F#7 as these both contain notes outside of the key. Check the video description for further information.

The song structure is:

  • Intro
  • Verse
  • Bridge
  • Chorus
  • Interlude (same as intro)
  • Verse
  • Bridge
  • Chorus
  • Middle
  • Bridge
  • Chorus
  • Outro (same as intro)

I also thought that rather than having a static picture or chord chart it would be nice to have some images for you to look at whilst you improvise. These are pictures from my very amateur photography. They were taken in a small fishing village in Cornwall, England.

If you wish to use this backing track for anything other than practicing soloing, please email me stroudguitar@gmail.com

Please comment below if you have any feedback on the backing track or what sort of style I should go for next.

 

 

Happy New Year!

Happy New Year to all of my students and people that follow this blog. I say this every year, but this really is a great time of year to review your playing and set some aims for the year. 

I think I spread my focus too widely in 2015, so am planning to work on smaller goals this year. Some of my students what sort of goals they could set. Here are some examples:

– taking a grade exam
– joining a band or playing with others
– learning a new technique
-learning  particular song/solo
-developing a specific area of your playing e.g. rhythm guitar, improvising or bending…
-starting a new style
– regular practice
– spend less time focussing on gear and more time playing!

It will be different for everyone depending on their ability and long term aims. One thing we all share, we should probably practice more! I’ve definitely been guilty of quantity over quality in the past. Nowadays I opt for practising in 20 min chunks. I remember more this way and am more focussed. Sitting down to practice with clear goals is much more rewarding, but forces you to reflect upon what you really want from your guitar playing.

Merry Christmas

Merry Christmas to all of my students. Hope you enjoy your time with family and any new guitar additions! Not an Xmas song (maybe I’ll get something together for next year!), but had fun learning this legendary instrumental, Cliffs of Dover.

Had some fun learning this one, quite different to the sort of material I normally play. I’d watched an interview with him saying that he cut this song with a Gibson 335 and remember being surprised at the time as I’d only ever seen him play a maple neck stratocaster. There weren’t many YouTube covers using a 335, so I’d thought I’d have a go!

Gear: Cherry red (the only colour!) Gibson 335, ’63 reissue. Assuming that he went into a Marshall head and cab, I opted to use Logic instead of an amp. I used the distorted classic drive setting with the vintage British stack to emulate a Marshall type sound. I added stereo delay and chorus into the mix as well to try and capture that Eric sound (which is pretty hard given that he has such a particular tone!).

5 Chord Changing Tips

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The biggest hurdle to overcome in the early stages of playing guitar for most players is changing between chords in time. In the long term you should be aiming for the following:

  • Being able to move between shapes without any gap in time
  • Clear sounding chords, with no fret buzz or missing strings
  • Moving between chords without having to look at the left hand
  • Moving all fingers simultaneously, rather than one by one.

When you start out with your first 3 or 4 chords these goals feel a long way off, but they are achievable with the correct approach to practice. Here are my top 5 tips:

  1. Figure out the most logical way to change between chords and then stick to this way. This is essential, as your ability to play chords smoothly is thanks to muscle memory. If you alter the way you play a chord change each time you pick up the guitar, then that muscle memory won’t even get started. My main tip here is to try and put down the fingers which are on the bass strings first (E,A,D). This is because these are the first strings that you are like to hit with the right hand. It is then a case of analysing chord changes for the most logical movement. Ask yourself, are any fingers close to where they need to be for the next change? Are fingers already on the correct frets, but perhaps not strings? sometimes fingers are already in the correct shape/formation and ‘just’ need to move.
  2. Separate out the hands: you can start this by simply moving between chord shapes without playing them. This seems like a strange thing to do at first, but it allows your brain to focus solely on the movement and good finger placement. When I started out, I used to do a lot of this. As it is silent practice it can be done any time of day too!
  3. When moving between chords don’t lift your fingers away from the fretboard. Try to keep them as close as possible as this will minimise the time to find the next chord. To start with you may find that the fingers involuntarily jump away from the fretboards in anticipation of the chord change, so this is really about training the fingers and you may have to go very slowly at first.
  4. Practice playing in time in a gradual way. I do this exercise a lot with students. It goes like this: either with a metronome or drum track (at about 60 bpm) play your chord of choice 4 times to the beat. Then leave a clear gap of 4 beats/clicks. This is your time to move to the next chord. Once you can do this, reduce the gap between the chord to 3 beats and then 2 and then try without a gap at all. This is a great way to see progress.
  5. Visualise chord shapes/changes when away from the guitar. To reinforce your memory, try visualising chord changes when away from the guitar. This could be whilst walking, waiting for an appointment, free time when you can get in some guitar practice, without a guitar! To do this you need to clearly visualise the fingers, where they are and how they move neatly to the next chord.

There are other things that you can do, but I find these most effective. If there was a sixth tip , it would be don’t give up! Every guitar player has difficulty with this. To get beyond this stage try not to think negatively about how difficult it is, instead take a problem solving approach and try to look at it logically.

Eric Johnson Manhattan Cover

Here is my cover of Eric Johnson’s instrumental; Manhattan. This 1996 tune featured on his album ‘Venus Isle’.

A year into playing guitar I unknowingly met Eric at a music trade show in London. Mesmerised by the Orange amp stand, I asked the salesman if I could try out an amp, the guy politely said ‘I think you’ll have to ask someone that’s working the stand’ and walked off. Thinking it was an employee that couldn’t be bothered to let a kid try out an amp he is never going to buy, I walked off to try out a Parker fly! Later that day, on the coach to head back to school I look through the free stuff I have crammed in my bag and pull out a copy of Fender magazine. On the front is the salesman, who I learn to be Eric. Being pre- internet, I loaned a cd of his from the local library and have loved his playing and tone ever since. Looking back he was very polite, he could easily have told me where to go! This album came out the year I began playing too. If I met him now, there’s plenty of questions I would have for him, Orange amps wouldn’t be one of those topics! His playing seems to straddle genres and that’s one attraction to this piece.

Gear: Fender No Neck ’08 Stratocaster, Deluxe Reverb, Carbon Copy delay, TC Corona chorus, Hardwire tube distortion and SP compressor.

 

 

Jimi Hendrix 73 today!

If Jimi Hendrix was still with us he would have been 73 today. I would love to have seen what musical direction he would have taken in the ’70s and even ’80s. I’m sure there would have been some great collaborations if he’d been able to shake off his management team.

To mark Jimi’s birthday here is my cover of his classic tune: ‘Little Wing’.

If you’re trying to learn the intro to this song then the first thing to do is to learn the chord structure, which is as follows:

little wing intro chord shapes

This helps you connect the individual rhythm licks together and memorise it.

Here is a transcription of the whole song that I found:

LittleWing PDF VERSION

I would suggest slowing the song down so you can hear the licks, as they are quite intricate. I learned this when I was about 15 and don’t play it note for note today, I think of the chords and then embellish them as Jimi did.

 

The Beatles The End

London 1969, Abbey Road Studios – The Beatles were putting their finishing touches on what would be their final album produced in the studio. Looking for a way to end it, they came up with a medley that culminated in a drum and guitar solo that featured all four of them as soloists.

Here is my cover version. I’ve tried to use guitars to emulate the sound of their guitars. Nobody seems to know for sure what guitars were used, just that in the studio at the time were: casinos, strats, teles and McCartney’s esquire.  I think you can hear that John is using his casino as it does sound like a P90 pick up.

Had the pleasure of seeing Paul play this earlier this year. They extend the solo live and it’s such a great jam number. Enjoy 🙂