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.

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.

5 Chord Changing Tips

guitar-756326_1920

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.

Fingerstyle guitar: pinch picking

Here is another example of the kind of materials I use with students in lessons.  I will often devise an etude/exercise to focus on a particular technique, as it not always possible to find songs that cover what’s needed.

This exercise is designed to improve a student’s pinch picking. This when to notes are played at the same time with the right hand in fingerstyle guitar. It is often the thumb and either the middle or index finger. Below is the etude and pinch pick exercises.

Pinch pattern ex

Pinch Pick Etude 1

If you’re interested in learning the guitar and you are in the Stroud area (Gloucestershire), then get in touch to arrange your free introductory lesson

stroudguitar@gmail.com

Xmas Offer

If you have a family member or friend that would like to learn guitar then why not take advantage of my XMAS offer of 3 for 2 on guitar lessons. 1 hr lessons are charged at £20, but you can buy 3 lessons for just £40.

If you would like to purchase lessons for a friend or family member then gift certificates are available. I teach beginners to advanced and specialize in teaching rock, indie, blues and jazz. If someone is picking up the guitar for the first time then I’m happy to provide advice on affordable or suitable guitars, amps and tuners.

Lessons take place in my music room in Kings Stanley. I will consider delivering lessons in a student’s home, but obviously this will affect the cost. When teaching, I always like to tailor lessons to the student’s interests, whilst making sure that what they are learning is developing their playing ability. To purchase lessons on this offer please email me at: stroudguitar@gmail.com or call on 07922 159 574.