Coming Soon — More PTG Books for Kindle!

Hope you’ve all been enjoying the Kindle books we’ve released here at PTG all summer. We have several more in various stages of development, including one that is nearing completion and should be ready for release early September.

This next book will be a departure from the classically-oriented material we’ve been doing, and it’s something we’ve had a lot of folks asking for. The book will review the five pentatonic boxes, and will dozens of cool phrases you can use in each of those boxes.

There will also be brief explanations, for less experienced players, on how and why this stuff works, and how to use all the little “vocal” sounds the guitar can make that most other instruments can’t. If you’re looking for something that will take your playing to the next level, and that you can put to use right away, this is the book for you!

Stay tuned, we’ll have release dates coming soon, plus free download dates for the entire PTG library!

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!

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.

3N/S Patterns: Harmonic Minor

The harmonic minor scale is actually easier to play in position than as a 3-notes-per-string (“3N/S”) pattern. But because these patterns have so many cool uses for melodic sequencing, and are helpful in traveling up and down the neck, it’s worth learning.

If you’re not familiar with the harmonic minor scale by name, there’s a good chance that you’ve heard it here and there. It is not commonly used in pop music, but is frequently found in metal and classical. Guitarists such as Yngwie Malmsteen have built careers on the virtuosic, heavy classical sound of this scale.

Spelled intervallically, the natural minor scale (in relation to the major scale) goes: 1-2-b3-4-5-b6-b7. So the 3rd, 6th, and 7th degrees of the major scale are flattened to make a natural minor scale (aka Aeolian mode).

The harmonic minor scale is the same as the natural minor, except that the 7th degree is not flattened, only the 3rd and 6th degrees. This creates a wider interval between that b6 and the Δ7 (the delta Δ can be used to denote major), which creates the melodic tension most associated with the harmonic minor scale.

Check out the diagrams below for notes and intervals in the scale:

HMinorScale

Here’s the tab and .wav for the scale:

HMinor_Scale

HMinor Scale

It takes a bit of back-and-forth shifting going from string to string, but once you get the shape down it’s not too bad. As always, take it slow at first, use strict alternate picking, and observe what each hand is doing as you shift and move from one string to the next.

The practice sequence below moves along the scale in thirds, ascending then descending. Check the tab and .wav files:

HMinorSeq

HMinor Seq (60bpm)   HMinor Seq (120bpm)

We’ll post some more ideas for melodic sequencing with 3N/S patterns soon, but in the meantime, try all of the sequencing ideas we’ve gone through so far on all of the scales (blues, major, minor, harmonic minor) we’ve looked at. Interval studies (such as the sequence in thirds tabbed above) are especially useful in discovering patterns within these larger scale patterns.

3N/S Patterns: Minor Scale

In looking at 3-note-per-string (aka “3N/S”) scale patterns we’ve touched on blues and major scales. Let’s take a look at the natural minor scale next. We’ll use the A minor scale, since it’s all natural notes (no sharps or flats), and the A minor scale is the relative minor of the C major scale. (Conversely, C major is the relative major of A minor.)

Here is the scale, spelled out in notes and then in intervals:

MinorScale

To add a little bit to the reference to modes from last time, since we know that a mode is a scale starting from a given tone, and there are seven tones in a major scale, then there must be seven modes, right?  This is where that “relative minor/major” idea comes in; if you count through the respective scales, you can see that the minor scale is the 6th (or Aeolian) mode of the major scale, which is A.

Here’s the tab and .wav file for the A minor scale:

Minor_Scale

Minor Scale

You’ll have to shift a little bit moving from the G to B and B to E strings, but it shouldn’t be too difficult. Check out the Modes cheat sheet on the Resources page for diagrams that are useful for visualization.

Here’s a cool melodic sequence to use on 3N/S scale patterns. It ascends through the scale pattern with a four-note sequence that goes (numbers indicate scale steps) 1-2-3-1, 2-3-4-2, 3-4-5-3, etc. Descending the pattern goes in reverse, 3-2-1-3.

Take it slow, use alternate picking (starting with a downstroke) and a metronome, and pay attention to those shifts on the upper strings. Use the .wav files for reference:

Minor_Seq

Minor Seq (60bpm) Minor Seq (120bpm)

Stay tuned, there’s another 3N/S pattern to cover, as well as more melodic sequences to use, and we’ll also be covering some ideas to improve your acoustic fingerstyle playing!

3N/S Patterns: Major Scale

Let’s continue our series on 3-note-per-string (referred to here as “3N/S”) by looking at the major scale. We’ll revisit the C Major scale, since it is comprised solely of natural notes (no sharps or flats). Check out the diagrams below, showing the scale spelled out in notes and then in intervals:

notes(2) intervals(2)

Notice that these aren’t “root-to-root” scales encompassing multiple full octaves, they are two octaves and a perfect fourth, roughly 2½ octaves. This is simply to make the most out of the position being played in, as there are only a couple of minor shifts involved.

For people who aren’t familiar with the concept of modes, there’s no time like the present to bring it up. A mode is just a scale sequence that starts from a given note in the scale. So if you start from C (the root), that’s the C Ionian mode (as well as the C Major scale). If you go from D to D’ (one octave up), that is called D Dorian. E to E’ is E Phrygian, and so on. The positions can be (and are) extrapolated along the neck.

We’ll go over modes in depth in a future series, in the meantime, check out the Modes cheat sheet on the Resources page for a quick overview. Modes are an incredibly useful tool in developing a melodic and truly musical style.

Check the tab and .wav file below. As always, use alternate picking (starting with a downstroke) and use a metronome. Notice that the sequence comes back down through the scale in the next position, which again would be the D Dorian mode:

Major Scale 01

Major Scale

The strength of playing scales this way is that they are useful in a huge variety of melodic sequencing patterns,  The sequence shown below is a great example of what can be done, it ascends four notes at a time through the scale. Try both ascending and descending, and listen to the accompanying .wav files for reference:

Major Seq 01

Major Seq (60bpm) Major Seq (120bpm)

Work it around in as many positions as you can think of, keeping in mind where the root note is located. We’ll review another scale and cool melodic sequence soon.

Scales and Intervals, Part 4: Review

If you’re still with us on the Scales and Intervals series, thanks for sticking with it. I guarantee you that while it may seem like a lot of information to absorb, especially if you’re starting with basic (or no) knowledge, that it will pay off, relatively quickly, and for years to come.

These are concepts that form the basis for developing the technical and the creative aspects of your playing. Obviously, both of those things are important, and knowing where things are and what they’re called will enable you to get where you want to go more quickly, and with fewer potholes along the way.

But for this post, let’s take a quick break from all the theory jargon, and show you a few practical things to work on, based on the material so far, that will give you real results, in a fairly short amount of time.

Check out the three main ways to play the C major scale across the neck, starting with the 1st, 2nd, then 4th fingers:

1f

The above one we covered earlier in the series. Three-note-per-string scales are invaluable to learn, as they are the most adaptable, and present the most opportunities for creating great melodic patterns to run up and down through the scale.

2f

The above form was the most conventional way to play a major scale for a long time, but most rock players went to the 3-note/string style in the ’80s, as those patterns are more applicable to shredding. Still, this is a good pattern to know, as it presents another way to anchor your fretting hand and prepare to navigate through the course of a solo or melodic phrase.

4f

This last one is another good pattern for navigating and finger independence. It may be easier for you to play the D and G strings using the 3rd finger, instead of the 2nd. Either way, there’s going to be a little bit of shifting back and forth, but not too bad.

Practice all three forms with alternate picking, starting with downstrokes and with upstrokes, observing how the changes from string to string affect your picking motion in each form. Remember also these forms are movable, and the first (lowest) note is the root of the scale, so if you want to play a B major scale, start one fret down in 7th position.

In moving the forms to other positions, keep the note diagram for the entire fretboard handy, and observe the names of the notes in the other major scales. It’s especially helfpul to notice how many more accidentals (sharps/flats) are present in various keys.

For example, the C major scale, as we’ve seen, has no sharps or flats. But one position down, the B major scale, goes:  B-C#-D#-E-F#-G#-A#-B, a total of 5 sharps in that scale. One position up from C, the C# major scale, goes: C#-D#-F(E#)-F#-G#-A#-C(B#)-C#. Technically, B#-C are enharmonics, as are E#-F, so the key signature (like you would see on a musical clef) of C# major is shown to have seven sharps, or every note in that major scale!

(About the only time you will ever see the notes B-sharp, E-sharp, C-flat, or F-flat, is when they are used in specific key signatures. Otherwise, they are conventionally known as C, F, B, and E respectively.)

There are mathematical patterns behind this, which we’ll cover in future posts when we get to concepts like the circle of fifths. In the meantime, just practice all three major scale forms in as many positions as possible (utilizing open strings as needed), and identify all the notes in each different major scale.

All those movable major scale forms should keep you busy for a while, and to add to the fun, let’s leave you with a couple of exercises based on third intervals. Here’s the first (3-note-per-string) scale form in thirds, ascending then descending:

3rds(1)

Now in sextuplets:

3rds(2)

The sextuplet rhythm and number of notes don’t quite land “right” the way the first example does, but you get the idea.

Needless to say, these interval exercises can be worked through all three scale forms diagrammed above. Start with both directions of alternate picking, then try incorporating legato, palm muting, and economy picking. Learn the patterns thoroughly in one position or key before moving them up and down the neck.

This series has grouped scales and intervals together, in order to show how the former is constructed from the latter. Hopefully this series has provided some insight as to how the two are related. Please check out the Intervals PDF on the Resources page for a larger chart showing the note and interval relationships within a given scale.

At this point, in order to do justice to each subject, we’re going to investigate deeper into intervals and scales separately. Over the next couple weeks, we’ll check out each type of interval separately, and provide tab examples and diagrams to help you get them under your belt. Then we’ll move on to some different types of scales.

Lick of the Week: Pedal Point and Scale Sequences

Here’s an extended lick that is really two separate melodic runs combined. The first half is a pedal point phrase based in E minor. Practice this basic phrase, utilizing strict down-up alternate picking:

LotW3(sample)

Using the suggested fingering will keep you in the 12th position, and utilize all four fingers, accenting the first note of each 4-note grouping. It’s a great-sounding phrase to play at higher tempos. The 3-note (C-B-C) pedal is a cool contrast to the usual single-note style.

So let’s take that intro phrase and add a few more notes to play against the pedal.

LotW3(1)

The first note of the third bar (F#) requires a slight shift back one fret, but you should be able to move the index finger back and forth from G to F# and back to G, while keeping everything else still in the 12th position. Slide into the final high A note from the high G (15th fret) for added emphasis.

Now let’s take a look at the second half of the phrase, which will cover most of the strings and move along several positions:

LotW3(2)

This is just a straight E minor scale, sequenced in descending groups of four. Rather than the typical 3-notes-per-string scale, note how the run alternates between three notes and four notes per string. This facilitates position shifting, with small slides at key points in the phrase. The shift to the D# (major 7th interval) to slide into the final E note suggests a shift from natural minor to harmonic minor.

A few things to consider trying with this phrase:  I like to begin this descending run by raking into the first high A note at the 17th fret. Raking is like sweeping, only much easier, since the actual notes being raked are simply muted, rather than played out. To rake that first note efficiently, just lightly mute the two (or three) strings above the “target” note (in this case, again, the high A at the 17th fret) with your index finger, while your 4th finger is set up on the target note. Once you hit the lower notes, perhaps midway through the third bar, try palm muting the rest of the way through. As always, these little variances add dynamic contrast, and keep it from sounding like just another quick scalar run.

Here’s the entire lick, combining both parts:

LotW3(full)

The entire melodic run has a baroque classical feel to it, and usually these types of scale sequences sound better at higher tempos when strict alternate picking is maintained. But there’s always room to throw in some improvised legato phrasing as well.

You know the drill — take it slowly at first, definitely use a metronome, build up some speed and precision and change a few notes here and there. For example, try playing the descending run as E Dorian, rather than Aeolian, which means all the C notes would be C#. Chromatic passing tones are also fun to use here and there. Experiment, play hard, and have fun!