E Funk/Rock blues backing track

My second foray into creating backing tracks resulted in this 12 bar E blues with a funk/rock feel. It has the following structure:

  • Twice round the changes (standard 12 bar blues)
  • Twice round the changes with stops on beat 1 of the first four bars
  • Once round the changes with a funkier feel
  • Twice round the changes where the rhythm parts have changed to a 16th note feel, creating the feeling of doubling the tempo
  • Once round the changes with stops on every bar
  • Once round the changes with a heavier feel
  • Coda (repeat last line 3 times)

I hope people find it useful for practice, the lead breaks hopefully break it up and make it more interesting than just the same feel all the way through. I am trying to create these to feel more like songs to play over than just a backing track. In terms of scales, there are a myriad of options. For me mixolydian works best due to the use of 9th chords instead of plain 7ths.

Any feedback is greatly appreciated or suggestions for future backing tracks as I am trying to do one every month or so.

 

 

 

 

Clip on tuners

snark

i often get asked by students what clip on tuners to purchase. Clip on tuners work either via a microphone that picks up the sound of the strings or it works by vibrations. So far I have tried two models, the snark (pictured above) and the D’addario NS micro headstock tuner. There are tons of other models, but here is my thoughts on these two.

The Snark: well like guitars, i was drawn to these because of the funky colours! So far I’ve had a red one and a blue one. I’ve had two because I’ve had issues with both. Firstly, these do look quite big when clipped onto the guitar. i wouldn’t want to use one for gigging as it is just very indiscrete. That said, for practice at home or rehearsals this doesn’t present a problem, and the fact it isn’t tiny means you can easily read the display. It is very intuitive to use, with red indicating flat, green in tune and yellow sharp. The problem with tuners like this is often leaving them on and then finding next time you want to use it the battery is dead! This one will automatically switch off after two minutes of hearing no notes.

Now to the issues that I encountered. This style of tuner has a weak point in its design; the join between the tuner and the clipping device. My first snark snapped at the lever linking these two parts whilst I was on a gig. It was pretty much useless after this. I tried sitting on the body of the guitar, but it was just awkward!  My second snark just stopped working. I tried fresh batteries and nothing, the display had given up on me. This is when I thought I’d try another brand.

The D’addario NS Micro tuner is tiny in comparison to the Snark. this wouldn’t suit everyone, but for me it was an ideal solution to discrete tuning at gigs. The tuner fits on the headstock of my guitar and is hidden away from all eyes but mine.

tuner

This means it stays on my guitar at all times and I think this is one reason why it still works. The snark was constantly being taken on and off and adapted to fit my guitars, which might have led to it breaking. One drawback of this tuner is if you leave it on, it won’t turn itself off for ten minutes. Whilst being small makes keeps it out of sight, the display is on the small side, but a sacrfice that is worth it to me.

Both get the intended job of tuning completed and are accurate. Overall I would recommend the D’addario. I’ve had it for 2 years or so now, which is pretty good for a clip on tuner!

5 Signs that you should change your strings

‘How often should I change my strings?’ – is a question I often get asked. The truth is there is no set amount of time, for every player it will be different. There are a number of factors that affect the longevity of guitar strings with some of them being:

  • How much you play the instrument
  • Where you store the instrument
  • If you wipe down the guitar strings after you have played (This is important for players that sweat a lot when they play!)
  • How much you sweat

The following are signs that you need to change your strings:

  • The strings aren’t staying in tune
  • They have lost their shiny colour/look duller
  • You might notice dirty points where the string is tarnished
  • They feel rougher
  • The tone of your guitar is duller than normal (this is more noticeable on acoustics).

As you become more experienced you will come to spot these signs more easily.

 

Should I start on electric or acoustic?

A question I often get asked by beginners is whether to start on an electric or acoustic guitar.

Whether you start on an acoustic or electric guitar will depend on a few things:

  • The sort of music you wish to play
  • Budget

In terms of whether you should start on an electric or an acoustic your first consideration should be: which one will help me play the music that I want to play? If you want to play rock and lead guitar solos then electric is the way to go. If your favourite artists use acoustics, then you will need one to replicate that sound. It used to be that people started out on an acoustic before progressing onto an electric. The guitar market is now flooded with low cost electrics, which means some people skip out learning on acoustic. The one downside of starting out on electric is you may find it harder playing acoustic later on. Below is a summary of the pros and cons of acoustics vs electrics.

steel

 

Steel strung acoustic

Pros:

  • There is an abundance of cheap models
  • No need for any other equipment eg. Amplifiers
  • Great for fingerpicking
  • Steel string acoustics have a nice and bright sound (more so than a nylon strung guitar).
  • Harder to play lead guitar on (guitar solos)
  • Strings are slightly tougher on the fingers than electric guitar strings. You therefore have to apply more pressure to sound a note than on an electric guitar
Nylon strung acoustic Pros:

  • Again, there are plenty of cheap models available
  • Strings are soft on the fingers and require less pressure than a steel strung guitar
  • Good for fingerpicking/classical
  • No need for any other equipment
Cons:

  • These guitars have quite a mellow tone, on cheaper examples this could be described as ‘dull’!
  • They have quite a wide neck radius to get your hands around
  • Changing the strings on a nylon guitar is a bit fiddly
Electric Guitar

 

 

Pros:

  • Less pressure is required to play notes, meaning it is easier than an acoustic guitar.
  • Neck radius isn’t as large , which for some people makes it easier to play
  • Work better for guitar solos than acoustic.
Cons:

  • You will need some additional equipment ( a lead, amplifier and strap)
  • Depending on what you buy, can be a bit more expensive than starting on acoustic.
  • You may find it hard to play acoustic if you start on an electric as you won’t be used to the required pressure needed to play notes.

How to approach learning a song

notes

 

One of the skills I often find myself teaching is how to approach learning a song from notation/tab. Take the wrong approach and you can end up frustrated and wondering why a piece of music is eluding you. Before diving into a piece of music I would suggest the following strategies:

  1. Listen to the piece of music several times. This is particularly important if the song has any tricky rhythms. If there are different versions of the song by other artists then listen to them also. You may also find it useful to find out more about the band/songwriter and the context in which the song was written. This may help you put the required feeling into playing the piece.
  2. Divide the piece up into sections. Learning a piece in chunks is a proven way to commit something to memory.  Some music will have titles for each section eg. section A,B,C etc or Verse, Chorus. If this hasn’t been done for you then look for double bar lines. Double bar lines are used to indicate the end of a section. Once you have done this take it section by section.
  3. Isolate any technically difficult parts. A phrase might be a bit quick for you or have a challenging rhythm, whatever the difficulty isolate such passages and practice them independent of the piece. If possible play them to a metronome and gradually increase the speed by no more than 5bpm. If you have the technology you could also slow down the recording and loop it. Picking is often the main barrier to the effective playing of a lead guitar parts, make sure you’ve opted for the optimum picking pattern.
  4. Look at the notation as well as the tab. If both notation and tab are present then you need to look at both. Tab is a very accessible but limited method for writing music. Ideally you should be looking to the tab to guide you on rhythm and expressive techniques/dynamics.
  5. Deal with frustration positively. Instead of feeling like giving up, ask questions to help you overcome problems. If you can’t execute a passage at speed or keep making mistakes, then ask what technical issues could be the cause of the problem rather than allowing negative self-talk to fill your head.
  6. Perform! Practice performing it at home or record it to listen back to.

Local Guitar Shops: Dursley

In my recent post about local guitar shops I neglected to include Intersound Guitars in Dursley. I’ve not managed to make it over there yet, but heard good things about the shop from students. Their website is: http://intersoundguitars.co.uk/

In this age of internet shopping I think buying a guitar is one item you can’t buy without trying. You need to feel the playability, size of the instrument and also the sound. If you are looking for guitar lessons in the Stroud/ 5 valleys area in Gloucestershire and need some advice on what guitar to get as a beginner then I offer this kind of advice to students. Most guitar shops are friendly places and will also offer help and guidance when buying your first guitar!

Whole Tone Triads

So you’ve learnt the Whole Tone scale and the next natural thought is how do I use this? I find the most effective way is to play the triads in triplets and to learn these triads in different locations on the neck. Like the diminished scale and diminished triads, the whole tone scale is symmetrical and therefore gives us nice and easy patterns to remember. Open the PDF to see a few suggestions on where and how to play them: Whole Tone Triads

In terms of application, the most common usage is over an altered dominant chord. Imagine you have G7 chord – here is how it could link to altered versions of a G7:

dom whole tone

 

Looking at this the best usage to create outside sounds would be over a G7b5 or #5 chord.

One very outside application is to use it over a minor chord. For a Gminor chord you wouldn’t use G whole tone, you would go from a semitone below- so Gb Whole Tone.

minorwholeI think this works best over a Gminor/Maj7 chord (G, Bb, D, Gb). Whole Tone ideas to create quite a bit of tension so it’s always good to try and resolve to something more in keeping with the chords you are playing after playing a whole tone idea.

 

Product Review: Fender Blues Junior iii

Fender Blues Junior iii Review

 

fbl

I recently purchased a Fender Blues Junior iii from World Guitars in Stonehouse. I had been searching for a tube amp for some time and after a disaster with a Laney VC-15 I opted for the Fender.  The model that I purchased is in two tone wine red and tan with a wheat coloured grill.

Sound

Although the amp is only 15 watts; I have to say it is incredibly loud! I think I could certainly do small gigs with it and it would even compete with a drummer. The amp only has one channel with controls for volume, bass, mid, treble, master and reverb. The simplicity of the controls is the genius of this amp. The clean sound is excellent – as you would expect from a Fender amp. If you’re looking for high gain then this amp isn’t for you. Instead, you get warm valve distortion. The clean headroom is pretty good, and like any good valve amp the crunch will depend on how you articulate notes.  Only negative is that the reverb is a little over the top even set at three (all knobs go to 12). In addition to the controls mentioned, there is a ‘fat’ switch that adds crunch when you’ve cranked the amp. The volume required to get an overdrive sound does present a problem for bedroom use. Although, with such a good clean sound I think this amp would take pedals very well. I’m currently mulling over a few distortion pedals.

Looks

If you like retro then this amp is hard not to like! The two tone ‘50s styling appealed to me instantly and was probably one of the reasons I ended up buying it.

Use

I think this amp could be used for a number of styles. My main use will be for jazz, blues and rock. It simply wouldn’t work for metal or high gain stuff or big gigs (unless you mic it). From other reviews, I’ve heard it takes pedals very well, so I can’t wait to test it out. Having only ever owned solid state Marshalls and Fender amps, I am really appreciating being able to create that warm valve tone. So I’ve found it easy to emulate sounds of Jimi Hendrix, Les Paul and Jimmy page to name a few.

Overall 9/10

Sound 9/10 It doesn’t have high gain that I sometimes need – but a pedal will fix that.

Looks 10/10 Its vintage look is right up my street.

Build 7/10 The amp feels like it is solidly constructed. Given it a 7 purely as I haven’t gigged it or moved it yet.