Sweet Georgia Brown

Haven’t shared much on here from the main band I play in, Swing from Paris.  Last night we had a band practice and decided to arrange this old jazz standard from the 1920s. Here is the end result:

 

Rock Around the Clock

 

So I recently picked up a new jazz box, an ES300.   When I was researching about the guitar as well as discovering that Django used the model on tour with Ellington in ’46, I also found out that it was the guitar that ‘Rock around the clock’ was cut on.  In a break in practice today, I thought I’d have some fun and have a go at playing the iconic solo. The guitar player on the record, Danny Cedrone was a session player and paid just $21 dollars for the session and died (aged 33) 2 months later after falling down some stairs. I also didn’t know that it was originally a B side and only found popularity due to being used in a film (Blackboard Jungle). The solo is also lifted off an early Bill Haley and his Comets tune from 1952, called ‘Rock the Joint’.  Danny never got to enjoy the popularity of this song or his solo, are the chromatic runs the influence of Django?

This tune is just a blues in A. For the A chord it uses an inversion with the major 3rd in the bass (A/C#). For the D chord it used a D9/F# and similar for the E it uses an E9/G#. If you listen carefully he often slides down the chord shape at the end of each rhythm phrase. For those attempting the solo, the first few bars (the crazy bit!) are all semiquavers/16th notes. I found it easiest just to keep the right hand going alternate picking. Try to avoid having a tense picking hand or too firm a grip on the plectrum. For the final chromatic run, for me it works best with fingers 1,2 and 3 instead of all 4. I think this comes from my Gyspy jazz playing, as this is often how chromatic runs are played.

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.

 

 

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.

Grades

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If you are interested in taking grades on the guitar I teach two syllabuses, Rockschool for electric guitar and the RGT Acoustic guitar grades. I teach both from grade 1 through to grade 8 and have a 100% pass rate.

I teach students of all ages grades and it can be a great way to measure progress and have something to aim for. Both Rockschool and Acoustic grades are similar in that the grades cover a mixture of the following;

  • Pieces to play (3 for rock school and 1 for RGT)
  • Scales
  • Chords
  • Aural tests
  • Playing unseen material e.g sight reading
  • Rhythm tests
  • Knowledge of the instrument and basic music theory

It therefore does help students become a well rounded musician. I tend to teach grades alongside ordinary songs to help relate learning to songs a learner knows. It also offers excellent practice and performing something in front of someone else.

 

 

There is a light that never goes out

marr

Here is another example of how I write songs out for students. My aim when teaching is to make you a rounded musician, so rather than write out a simplified version, I prefer to teach students to look at both the tab and the music notation. In this song you have to watch out for tied notes as the strumming isn’t always steady eight notes.

Johnny Marr’s playing had a massive influence on a generation of guitarists, and he always seeked to use interesting chord shapes and also ways to support the vocals. Anyway here is ‘There is a light will never go out’ for your learning pleasure!

PDF is below:

There is a light that never goes out Capo

 

Happy New Year!

Happy New Year to all fellow guitar players out there! I always find this time of year is a great time to take stock of progress and thrash out a new practice routine. Part of my teaching involves guiding students on how to practice effectively. A lot of musicians learn the hard way! Less can sometimes be more, and more often than not we find ourselves running over material we’re already comfortable with or rushing through new material. If you’re looking for guitar lessons in the Stroud (Gloucestershire) area I have limited spaces for 2014, so get in touch! Best of luck achieving your musical goals in 2014.

Guitar for Sale

Before it heads onto Ebay, thought I’d put it out there that I am selling one of my guitars.

I’m selling my Hofner H17 contemporary series archtop. I’ve had this for 2 years now, and have only gigged it a handful of times. It’s in fantastic condition and is currently setup with flatwounds.  It’s in a stunning red finish. Below is a picture.  I am looking for £350 for this guitar. For further info email me at: stroudguitar@gmail.com

If you’d like to try before you buy you are more than welcome to pop round.  I do teach jazz guitar, so if you’re into jazz in the Stroud/Dursley/Nailsworth area then feel free to enquire about lessons too.

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Local Guitar Shops

I quite often get asked what guitar shops to recommend for buying guitars/strings etc…..

Local to Stroud you do have some choice, here are my picks:

Music Dynamics

Located by the train station, this shop replaced the void left by RIFFS. This shop is more of a general music shop than guitar shop. That said, they stock acoustics, picks, strings and accessories, as well as a great range of books and sheet music. Since it was opened the shop appears to have grown and it’s great to see they are stocking a few more guitars.

Around About Sound 

Located in Cheltenham, this shop stocks a wide range of guitars (electric and acoustic). The staff are very helpful and I would recommend this as a good place to visit for beginners looking for their first guitar. The staff can offer advice and it is also a good place to visit if you need any work done on your instrument.

Ideally, if you’re buying a guitar, please visit a shop to try it out! Sometimes prices are tempting on the internet, but you have to feel the instrument and test it to really see if it’s right for you.