Free Download Weekend!

Our new Master the Classics book, Hanon for Guitar: Inside Out, is now available for Kindle on Amazon. This weekend (August 17-18), you can pick it up for FREE! Inside Out takes the classic Hanon piano exercises and adapts them for guitar in just about every conceivable layout.

Once the free weekend is over, Inside Out will retail for just $3.99. I guarantee you that no other Hanon for guitar book has this much material in it — even at twice that price.

If you’re not sure what the Hanon deal is all about, check out our 99¢ Hanon Sampler. In 17 quick pages, you will find:  an explanation of what the Hanon exercises are and why they can supercharge your guitar chops; a tab of Exercise #1; a brief explanation of intervals and tabbed interval studies (3rds through 7ths); and an intro to Exercises #2-20 (which are covered in full in Inside Out).

Hanon Sampler is also free over the weekend. Whether you’re a beginner looking for material to build foundational technique, or an advanced player looking for great rut-busting melodic development, the Hanon exercises will add another dimension to your playing.

You don’t need to know any theory to use these books (or any of our books), just how to read tab! With our easy-to-follow methods, you’ll pick up the theory as you go along, without any studying, just playing!

So what are you waiting for? Go get the Hanon books now, while they’re free, check them out, leave a review on the Amazon pages!

Hanon Doubleheader for Kindle!

This week, we’ll be releasing two books based on the classic Hanon Exercises for piano.

The main book, Hanon for Guitar: Inside Out, features tab for the first 20 exercises. What’s more, we take Exercise #1, and expand it for the full range of the guitar neck, and show you how to work the exercise with various two- and three-string shapes, adjacent string pairs, position playing, changing key signatures, and much more! Scales, intervals, legato, economy/sweep picking are all covered, in over 100 pages of tab and analysis. The Kindle book features a link that you can use to access a free PDF version and audio files! Literally hundreds of hours’ worth of practice material at your fingertips, for far less than the price of a single guitar lesson!

The second book is an introductory sampler to Inside Out, and will give you a taste of what to expect from that book. In addition, the Hanon Sampler features interval studies that you can use and apply right away! Links to come this week, and free downloads for both books this weekend! Stay tuned!

Classical Gasp: Haydn #88 Finale

It took me a few years of playing before I started appreciating classical music, and what it could do for my ears (theory) and fingers (technique). Generally speaking, it’s better to be able to do two things at once, as long as you can do them well, right? Classical pieces enable you to learn and apply two fairly difficult concepts simultaneously. Not only is that a great thing, but it saves you tons of time.

If you’re familiarizing yourself with the canonical figures of classical music, and want to look past the Big Three of Bach, Mozart, and Beethoven, you might want to give Franz Josef Haydn a shot. Haydn was a friend of Mozart and a teacher of Beethoven, and did more to innovate the then-young symphonic form than anyone up to that time. Certainly Beethoven’s Nine Symphonies represent the apex of the form, but Haydn’s 104 (some catalogues say 108) symphonies are full of melodic invention and development, and most are shorter and more accessible than many other examples of the style.

One of Haydn’s more enduring pieces is the final movement of his Symphony #88 in G Major. It’s a brisk, melodic finale to that composition, and one well worth learning and incorporating into your repertoire. We’re going to take a look at some of the really cool techniques contained in that piece. Paul Gilbert recorded his take on the Finale for his Get Out of My Yard album, and there are also YouTube videos of him playing the piece live to a backing track.

The piece is organized somewhat similarly to a modern rock song, just as an instrumental — verse, chorus, verse, chorus, breakdown, climax, end. Once you hear and learn the individual parts, and get how they fit together, it’s just a matter of working on those individual parts.

Here’s my tab for the entire piece, as well as the original score (both in PDF format):

Haydn #88 Finale    IMSLP30077-PMLP61596-Haydn_Symphony_88_Finale

I highly encourage you to go through the entire tab (as well as transcribing the score for the rest of that symphony, if you’re feeling ambitious) and see the great melodic shapes and ideas available there. Let’s take a look at the main theme (“verse”):

Haydn01

This is trickier than it might appear at first, and that’s primarily because of the shifts between 8th and 16th notes. Once you get a handle on the rhythm and the positions used, it will fall into place.

Let’s take a look at the melodic figure that comes after the “verse-chorus” recap:

Haydn02

That string-skipped form in bar 35 can also be played as a straight or sweep-picked triad, where the D note (G string, 19th fret) is played on the B string, 15th fret. Try them both, play what feels more comfortable to you. It’s a great way to work on both techniques.

What should be a bigger challenge — and thus more productive for your technique — is executing the position shifts of bars 40-45. It’s a quick scalar run down for the first three bars. with a climb back up in the next three, alternating between a brief piece of the G major (E minor) scale for the first half of each bar and an octave figure in the second half. Note that bar 45 is the same as bar 43, just an octave higher.

Continuing with the melodic figure:

Haydn03

More of the same here, just in a higher octave. Really try to keep the continuity of the melody here.

The last part of this extended melodic figure should really test your technical abilities:

Haydn04

This is a really nice mixture of straight alternate-picked scale sequences, as well as sweep-picked triads, ending in string-skipped octaves.

The extended slowdown section is not too difficult to play, so we won’t cover it here. Check the tab and the music, and it should be fine. The ripping cadenza at the end is what we’re after now:

Haydn05

Should be straight alternate picking there, though you may want to throw in some economy picking moves as you see fit. Again, the melody is the main thing. The next part of it, leading into the grand finale, could easily incorporate some sweep picking:

Haydn06

Don’t worry about using a metronome until you have the scale sequences and melodic shapes dialed in. At that point, use it to work on keeping any technical ideas (such as sweep picking the triads) locked into the beat. In addition to tracking your progress, the metronome will help you ensure that you play the parts cleanly and with precision.

Listen to the music, check out the video, and make sure that your efforts sound musical above all else. Play hard and have fun!

Presto Excerpt

As you may have seen in the news, we’re in the middle of a brutal heat wave out here in California, making it pretty unpleasant to work or play guitar or do much of anything besides languish in front of a cool fan with a cold drink.

That said, we are still on track to release the next book in our Master the Classics! Series. Presto takes the classic Bach piece from the Violin Sonata #1 in Gm (BWV 1001), and works it every which way. The book will feature musical analysis of every part of the piece, and it is tabbed in two octaves, with plenty of great melodic shapes to learn and apply to your own playing. Best of all, there are dozens of exercises based on the music, featuring classic shredder techniques such as sweep picking, string skipping, pedal point, and more!

Whether you’re a novice player looking for tips on building technique, or an experienced shredder looking for more and better practice material, Presto will have something for players of all styles and skill levels.

So while we’re finishing up editing, formatting, and cover art, here’s another excerpt from the book:

________________________

The diagram below shows the G harmonic minor scale notes (other than open strings) from the 1st through the 12th frets:

G Harmonic Minor 01

Carefully observe how the scale lies across the fretboard, and see how you can create various useful fingerings for this scale, using any number of strings (including just one string). Here’s the tab for a standard six-string fingering at the 3rd position:

4a

Here’s an alternate fingering that’s great for working up the neck quickly:

4b

Use the suggested fingerings and slides, take it slow at first, and you should be ripping it up in no time.

A lot of the counterpoint and melodic motion in the Presto takes place within a single octave of the G harmonic minor, so these next few exercises will focus on a snapshot of the fretboard:

G Harmonic Minor 02

Here’s the tab:

4c

Even though the shift to the B string is two frets, it should not be too difficult to handle. Run it back and forth until it’s fast, clean, and smooth. Since all four fingers are used at some point or other, it makes an effective warm-up exercise as well.

Now what if we start this scale sequence one scale degree down, like this?

4d

Since it’s starting from the 7th degree of the scale, this is considered the seventh mode of the harmonic minor scale. It is commonly known as the Ultralocrian. Where the Locrian mode (seventh mode of the major scale) is spelled out (relative to major scale) R-b2-b3-4-b5-b6-b7, the Ultralocrian spells out (again, relative to major scale) R-b2-b3-b4-b5-b6-bb7; every note other than the root is flattened, and the 7th degree is diminished (flattened twice).

The harmonic minor scale and the Ultralocrian mode each have their own distinctive “flavor” that works well over certain types of progressions. It’s definitely worth the effort to get familiar with these scales.

Let’s run this up and back in thirds, along the D-G-B strings:

4e

There are some twists and turns in there, so take it slow and use the recommended fingering. There’s a balance of one-string and two-string third intervals throughout, demonstrating the importance of learning intervals every way possible.

________________________

Hope you enjoyed the excerpt. Presto will be available on Amazon July 4th, and we’ll kick off the release with free downloads all weekend (July 4-7)! Stay tuned, and check in as this week moves along, as we’ll have an excerpt from the other forthcoming book as well.

Fingerstyle Playing: Giuliani Studies 1-12

Fingerstyle playing is a valuable part of any guitarist’s repertoire, no matter what your regular style happens to be. Once mostly associated with classical or country styles, rock and metal have gained depth and dimension by incorporating the dynamics found in fingerstyle playing.

The most useful studies in gaining picking-hand finger independence are in classical and country music. Classical especially has a large canon of works, developed over hundreds of years by many master teachers. So it makes sense to take a look at what is universally recognized as one of the most important works of the classical guitar canon, Mauro Giuliani’s 120 Right Hand Studies. This collection of short (just two bars each) melodic pieces gets progressively more difficult in general, and will train each of the picking-hand fingers.

Let’s take a look at the first twelve of these studies, as shown in the PDF and sound files below:

120studies-for-right-hand(pdf)   120 Right Hand Studies(wav)

(Please e-mail or let me know in comments if either or both of the files have any issues loading.)

As you’ll see, each study simply shows a technique, going between two chords, C in the first bar and G7 in the second bar. Especially in the first few studies, the G7 chord uses the third, B, as the bass note. Once you have the studies and techniques mastered, definitely start using other open chords and sequences, and combine them in ways that sound good to you.

We’ll put up photos and video soon so you can see a visual demonstration of proper picking-hand technique, but in the meantime, the basic position of readiness is to have your hand slightly cupped over the strings over the soundhole, hovering just above (1/8″ to 1/4″) the strings. Your thumb should be in position to strike the E or A strings, and the next three fingers over the D,G, and B strings respectively. The pinky is used, but rarely; until you get into more advanced classical guitar concepts such as tremolo, focus mostly on getting the thumb and first three fingers dialed in.

The tab is in the PDF just to make things easier to sight read, but definitely check the picking hand indications in the standard notation as you read along. The indications are as follows:  “p”=thumb, “I”=index, “m”=middle, “a”=ring, and “c”=pinky.

While these can be played on electric guitar, definitely work them on a nylon-string classical if you can, or a steel-string acoustic if you have one. The strings are spaced slightly more on classical and acoustic guitars, and thus will train your picking hand properly.

It’s also important to achieve a good, solid tone with each of your fingers as they strike the strings. Think of the midpoint between the 3rd and 4th (G and D) strings as your center, and each of your picking-hand fingers is striking slightly toward that center. So your thumb will strike downward as it plays root notes on the E, A, and D strings, while the other fingers will pull just slightly upward toward that center when playing the G, B, and E’ strings. (An exception is when the thumb is playing a bass note on the G string, in which case you strike downward, like you would on the lower strings.) Each finger should strike its string clear and smooth, and produce a tone that rings out and can be held for duration.

Shifting from C to G7 will be tricky at first, because in the full G7 chord form, you will need to use your ring finger for the low G note, which will appear in many of the studies. Use the index finger to fret the F note on the high E string, the pinky for the D note on the B string, and the middle finger for the B bass note on the A string.

Economy of motion for both hands should be a priority in developing any technique, but will be especially important here, as your picking hand will now be doing more than just picking up or down as a group of fingers, requiring attention to both hands as you play. Work on mastering the fretting of the chord forms first, especially since they’re the same in each study, then concentrate on what each finger of the picking hand is doing in a given study.

Here’s a quick breakdown of each of the twelve studies covered here:

#1 — The first study introduces the basic chord forms, with the thumb cycling through the first three notes of each chord as roots. Take it slow at first, and get a feel for shifting between the two chord forms. Notice that for three of the four beats on the G7 chord (beats 1, 2, and 4), there is no G note, making the tonality implied.

#2 — This is just the first study, but with the notes played one at a time. Keep a nice, slow, rolling triplet rhythm, count or tap along while you get your picking-hand fingers used to the independent motion, then use a metronome.

#3 — This reverses the order of the notes played on the B and E’ strings, so the middle finger will strike before the index finger (p-m-I instead of p-I-m).

#4 — Going back to the p-I-m sequence, but now “rolling across” the neck before returning the thumb back to the original bass note on the 4th beat. This is not as tricky as it might appear.

#5 — Now we’re rolling across the neck with a reverse m-I-p sequence.

#6 — A couple of minor curveballs in this one, rolling across with a p-m-I sequence. First, the bass note (first note of each beat) has an extended duration. Let it ring out for the full beat, not just the triplet. The other two notes of each beat remain triplets. The rest of these twelve studies will have this first-note duration. Secondly, notice that for the first three beats of each bar, the last note of each beat is also the first note of the next beat, but they are picked by different fingers, index then thumb. A great introductory study for finger independence.

#7 — Let’s introduce the ring finger to the festivities here. In the 1st and 3rd beats of each bar, the chord is spread out on the A-G-E’ strings (and the low G is finally introduced in the 3rd beat of the G7 bar), while on the 2nd and 4th beat, the “interior” of the chords are played. You may want to give this study some extra attention, to make sure that the low G in incorporated comfortably into the established G7 form you’ve been working on so far.

#8 — A simple reworking of the “spread” and “interior” forms from the previous study. This is a good one for gaining independence for the ring finger.

#9 — This is a nice and easy introduction to the back-and-forth “rolling” technique, where a chord form is played low-to-high and then back down. The first two beats feature that technique, and it’s a valuable one. Pay particular attention to keeping your picking hand position as anchored as possible, and not floating back and forth with the flow of the notes. You shouldn’t have to move your hand at all, just the individual fingers.

#10 — Another reversal of the fingers against the thumb root. By now this shouldn’t be too difficult.

#11 — The first note of each beat features the melodic note, played by the index finger, with an accompanying root played by the thumb. You may want to practice playing just the I-m-a sequences first, then add in the bass notes. This is a great introduction to incorporating moving bass lines against a static melody (in counterpoint, this is considered oblique motion).

#12 — You know the drill by now — reverse the fingering of the upper triad melody, from I-m-a to a-m-I. By now your ring finger should feel comfortable in these sequences.

Throughout all of the twelve studies included here — and for any fingerstyle study — strive for clarity of tone, an even rhythm, and consistent volume. Especially at first, some of the weaker or less coordinated picking fingers may be lower in volume and/or weaker in duration and clarity. Play through all twelve of these studies until the chord shifting feels smooth and natural, and the fingers on the picking hand are strong and comfortable.

We’ll cover the next 12 studies in a future post, but later this week, there will be a couple of short, simple pieces that will give you some additional melodic and rhythmic framework to apply these ideas to.

5 Basic Pentatonic Licks Every Rock Guitarist Should Know

Many classic rock solos tend to be built up from various combinations and sequences of easy-to-play pentatonic licks. Let’s take a look at five powerful “stock” phrases, all based around the standard A minor pentatonic box. Each tab is accompanied by a .wav file, at two speeds (92 beats per minute and 160bpm), so you can hear how it should sound.

Here’s a two-string pull-off lick:

PentBasic01

BasicPent01(slow) BasicPent01(fast)

For many two-string legato exercises using box shapes, it helps to use your index finger as anchor, similar to barring a chord, but just for the two or three strings you might be using for the lick.

The next one uses a hammer-on instead of a pull-off:

PentBasic02

BasicPent02(slow) BasicPent02(fast)

No doubt you’ve heard similar phrases used in countless rock, metal, country, and blues lead playing. Definitely use a metronome and follow the picking suggestions until you get these licks internalized, then you can start putting more distinctive dynamics into it, and make them yours.

Let’s move to the middle two strings of the box, and try a nice four-on-the-floor alternate picking lick:

PentBasic03

BasicPent03(slow) BasicPent03(fast)

Again, while these are simple phrases, your advantage is that you’re a guitar player, so there’s all sorts of cool dynamics you can incorporate into even the simplest four-note phrase. In the above example, you can use palm muting to get a percussive “chunk” sound, you can add artificial harmonics for a nice “squeal” effect here and there, you can make some or all of it into a legato phrase, whatever.

You can also play it in reverse, or with a different section of the box, or any of the other four boxes, or transpose it to another key.

Are we having fun yet?

This next lick is a fun and easy one, that will work out both your legato and picking chops. Zeppelin fans will probably note its similarity to the final phrase Jimmy Page plays in the middle (main) Rock and Roll solo:

PentBasic04

BasicPent04(slow) BasicPent04(fast)

Don’t be afraid of the triplet-16th/eighth note phrasing; once you get it down you’ll appreciate the polyrhythmic quality. It’s a huge element of developing your own phrasing as a lead player.

All of these examples are shown as just simple repetitions, because that’s the easiest way to get it under your fingers. The idea is to build a nice arsenal of these “stock” licks and take a piece here and there to combine and sequence into a great solo.

The guitar is your voice. Everyone has something to say, what’s on your mind?

The fifth lick involves the use of the blues scale. The blues scale is the pentatonic scale, with a flatted fifth (the tritone or “blue note”) thrown in. Here’s the blues scale as it lays along the first two boxes of the A minor pentatonic sequence:

Am Blues Scale

Take a close look at the above diagram; there are only six notes in the scale, repeated throughout two full octaves: A-C-D-Eb-E-G. See where Box #1 and Box #2 border each other and overlap.

So we’re going to throw that blue note in the mix with this last lick. The first bar of the phrase will just take you through the first octave of the scale, with a little back-and-forth phrasing. The second bar features some easy bending, before moving up to the 2nd box for another bend (but this time no release) with a nice chromatic passing tone (the C#, E’ string 9th fret), before ending on the high root note A (B string, 10th fret), by sliding into it from the G note (8th fret) below.

Check it out, and listen to the .wav files to hear the phrasing and nuances. This is more of a “voicing” lick, in that you don’t need (or even want) to crank it up to too high of a speed; dynamics such as bends and slides really don’t sound all that great at Mach 1:

PentBasic05

BasicPent05(slow) BasicPent05(fast)

While all of these licks are fairly simple to play and easy to master, the challenge is to make them sound unique. Use all of those dynamics (palm muting, harmonics, slides, legato, etc.) available to you to infuse the phrases with your voice and personality. Since the above exercises are in A minor, they should all sound pretty good over progressions in the keys of Am, Dm, or Em.

While it’s a rule of thumb to play any exercise in every key, not just the key it’s shown in, with pentatonic exercises there are keys that are advantageous to focus on, primarily because of the way the guitar is tuned. So while it would be great if you can transpose all of these into all 12 keys, the best ones to focus on for pentatonics are: Em (open and 12th positions), F#m (2nd and 14th positions), Gm (3rd/15th), Am (5th/17th), Bm (7th), Cm (8th), Dm (10th). The positions indicate where Box #1 will start, as shown on the cheat sheet.

When thinking about musical keys, think about how the relative minor/major factors into it as well. The relative minor key is always three frets (1½ steps) below the major key. So in your five interconnected pentatonic boxes, Box #1 is minor, Box #2 is #1’s relative major. That means the A minor boxes can also be played in the key of C major. The reverse is true as well; you will find some rock songs in the key of E major whose solos are played mostly in the C#m box at the 9th position.

The concepts are more important than rote memorization of every position and every box; once you learn the boxes in one position and get the hang of transposing, you’re most of the way there.

Stay tuned, we’ll have more intermediate and advanced pentatonic licks coming soon! Please feel free to drop a line in comments if there are any issues with playing the sound files.

If you’re ready for an in-depth exploration of the pentatonic/blues scales and boxes, and want to learn how to develop tasty, memorable licks and melodic runs with them, check out Pentatonic Licks & Sequences. Dozens of fresh licks, along with valuable tips and tricks to construct your own! Get some blues you can use with Pentatonic Licks & Sequences!

Power Chords

The most basic building block of rock and metal is the power chord. It’s a great place for beginners to start learning rhythm guitar, as only three (or even two) fingers are required. Below, check out the chord diagram and photo for the basic A5 chord, on the low E-A-D strings at the 5th position:

A5A5

As you can see from the indications below the chord chart, this chord consists of the root, the fifth, and another root note an octave higher. (We’ll try to keep the references to intervals at a minimum here, but there will be a free cheat sheet posted on the Resources page.) There are several advantages to knowing these simple but effective boxes:

  1. They can be moved anywhere along the neck, and across the neck with minor adjustments.
  2. They are the basis for the more developed major/minor barre chords.
  3. The interval that gives a chord a major or minor quality is the third. Since the power chord has no third, it can be played in either context.

Let’s move the box across the neck by one string, from the E-A-D string trio to the A-D-G grouping, staying at the 5th position. Now it is a D5 chord:

D5D5

So far so good. But as you might guess, the next string grouping will need a small adjustment in our box formation.

Continue reading “Power Chords”

Back to Basics: 2-Finger Chromatic Patterns

Following up from last week’s diagram of the chromatic scale, let’s take a look at some basic patterns derived from it. There are six possible two-finger combinations, diagrammed below:

1-2_1-4

2-3_3-4

This is where the terminology can be somewhat tricky if taken literally; while we’re referring to the above fingering combinations and patterns as “chromatic”, they really aren’t. “Chromatic” means a descending or ascending sequence of semi-tones (half-steps). These are two-finger patterns that replicate on every string, which is symmetrical, rather than truly chromatic. But “chromatic” is also commonly used to refer to patterns which are atonal, or not derived from any clear scale or key.

As always, these are just names for things, and you should feel free to call them whatever works for you. For our purposes here, “symmetrical” and “chromatic” can be used more or less interchangeably to refer to these patterns.

Anyway, let’s take a look at the basic 1-2 pattern being worked across the strings and back in several variations (see tab below):

1-2(1)

Use strict down-up alternate picking until you’re comfortable with each pattern, then reverse the picking sequence (start with an upstroke). Check out the triplet/sextuplet variation below:

1-2(2)

It sounds pretty cool at higher speeds. As with any new exercise or pattern, take it slowly, use a metronome and work your way up to speed.

Finally, be sure to try out the pattern with hammer-ons and pull-offs. It may take a bit of practice to work in the alternating pick directions from one string to the next, but it’s an efficient way to develop the picking hand.

1-2(3)

Keeping in mind that these tabs are highlighting just one of the 6 possible 2-finger combinations in just a couple of positions, there’s a ton of useful practice material to be mined just from these simple patterns. Use the neck diagrams at the top of the post for reference, and work through all the above tab variations with the other possible finger combinations.

Next week, we’ll combine some of these fingerings into more challenging patterns, and we’ll also show you how to sequence these patterns to produce more interesting musical ideas. See you then!

Back to Basics: The Chromatic Scale

The Back to Basics series will profile fundamental concepts and patterns, in order to provide “building block” ideas for players of all levels.

The chromatic scale encompasses all 12 notes of the octave. (For guitarists especially, the term is also used to refer to exercises which are not based on any particular tonal or scalar root, and incorporate patterns of some or all of the fret-hand fingers.)

Since all of the fingers come into play, the chromatic scale is ideal for warm-up patterns. Musically, since by definition all possible combinations are included, short chromatic patterns can also be useful for connecting scalar or modal ideas to one another.

There are two common ways to play the full chromatic scale:  in open position, from the open low E (6th string) to A on the 1st string (2 octaves + perfect 4th), or in any position, with a small shift on most strings, ascending and descending. (See corresponding diagrams and tabs.)

ChromOpenChromOpenTab

Chrom5 Chrom5Tab

Continue reading “Back to Basics: The Chromatic Scale”