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Guitar Tips

Just do it

Did you know it is more important to do something immediately than it is to do it well?  You shouldn’t put something off simply because you’re no good at it (like learning that new chord, scale, etc), you only learn by doing things, not delaying or putting things off or dumping it in the “too hard basket”.  But in saying that you do need to learn things in the correct order so don’t get a head of yourself.

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Keep a close eye on your equipment

It came to my attention the other day that a person ran up on the stage and stole a guitar from a local gig here in my home town of Palmerston North while the band was having a break.  Luckily a person from the audience noticed what was happening and tackled the thief, and the guitar concerned was returned.

When you are doing gigs or even jamming with friends in public places keep a close eye on your equipment, because if you aren’t, someone else is.

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Do you need any help or other information on today’s topic of interest?  Or maybe enquire about guitar lessons with master teacher Kevin Downing?  If so, click here or call (06) 357 0057

If you are really serious about your guitar skills then you need to read Kevin’s book The Secrets of Successful Practising for Guitarists

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Keeping fingers warm for playing on colder days

Now autumn and winter are starting to descend on us the weather is starting to get a bit colder with some serious cold snaps.  On those cold snap days it is a great idea to wear gloves to keep those fingers warmed up and ready to play, especially if you are going to a gig or guitar lesson.

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Playing with fingertips is the key

At all times you need to be playing with your fingertips, unless you are barring that is.  If you are not playing with your fingertips you will not get a quality sound.  One common fault that inhibits using your fingertips is having the thumb coming over the top of the fretboard, so try and keep it about the middle of the neck and facing upwards.

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Do you need any help or other information on today’s topic of interest?  Or maybe enquire about guitar lessons with master teacher Kevin Downing?  If so, click here or call (06) 357 0057

If you are really serious about your guitar skills then you need to read Kevin’s book The Secrets of Successful Practising for Guitarists

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Make a Daily List

Every day, write a to-do list to help you focus on what has to be accomplished in your practising or getting ready for that next gig. Identify the priority stuff and get those get tackled first. Then tackle them.  After that everything is easy.

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Tune Up Regularly

Guitars go out of tune quickly, and part of the problem is due to the weather. As you learnt in school that metal contracts and expands due to temperature changes in the atmosphere. Of course your guitar strings are made of metal so they will be affected. Other factors affecting tuning can be transporting it around in the boot of your car, putting it into carry bags which can turn the tuning pegs easily, etc.

Many guitarists never seem to get the idea that you need to tune your guitar as soon as you pick it up to play because your guitar could have been affected by any of the above elements.

Always use an electronic tuner when tuning, never use your ear, unless you are very experienced and know what you are doing. How can you tell if you are experienced or not? Tune your guitar by ear, then check it against your electronic tuner, if you are out on any one string you are not experienced enough to tune by ear.

Even professionals use electronic tuners and so should you. They tend to only use their ear if their guitar goes out of tune during a song, but that is an advanced technique.

One other thing, using an electronic tuner is an easy way to train your ear as to what your guitar should sound like and after a while you will memorise that. Tuning by ear and having your guitar not in tune, or even slightly out, will destroy any improvement in your ear.
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Do you need any help or other information on today’s topic of interest?  Or maybe enquire about guitar lessons with master teacher Kevin Downing?  If so, click here or call (06) 357 0057

If you are really serious about your guitar skills then you need to read Kevin’s book The Secrets of Successful Practising for Guitarists

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A Great Way to Getting A Better Sound

Many guitarists tend to play with the same sound setting on their guitar all the time. That is for every song they play and for every different style change. For example many rock players tend to use the bridge pickup with a little overdrive for taste, while the jazz players tend to use the pickup closest to the neck with the tone knob turned down a little and a clean amplifier sound. Many country players tend to use a Telecaster with a “slap back” delay sound.

There is no doubt that these settings sound great in the hands of a good player, but they can tend to sound very boring and predictable if you don’t be careful.

Many working guitarists I know have a problem with their sound, most students do too, and it is because they just don’t experiment with their equipment enough. In other words they don’t know what their equipment can really do. Do you? Really?

Here is a solution. You need to listen hard to your favourite recordings and determine what pickup the guitarist is using, then what effects, then if there are any other things happening that can alter the sound. After you have done all this you then need to replicate that yourself on your own gear.

I have settings that I like to use that include a chorus rhythm, slight overdrive, heavy overdrive (which I don’t use much), and a good clean sound (which I use most). They are the only effects that I use. I also know what they sound like on every pickup setting on all my guitars and amps.

I have not come across any guitar or amplifier that I cannot get a reasonably good sound out of, so if you can’t, you need to experiment more with what you have.

No matter what level you are, or whether you play acoustic or electric, you should always be searching to hear what your equipment can do.

To conclude you need to know exactly how to get the sounds you are hearing on your favourite recordings quickly, and you should have maybe twenty or thirty sounds that you can switch to quickly.

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Is it best to practice standing up or sitting down?

This is a question that keeps coming up a lot.  Many players also complain of the problem that they can only play sitting, but can’t play standing or Vis versa.  So the way to practice all depends on how you play when you are performing.

If you tend to play guitar standing up like in most rock bands mostly, then you need to practice standing up.  If you tend to perform mostly sitting down like classical players do, and some folk and jazz players, then practice sitting down.

Now here is a tip for when you practice sitting – try positioning your guitar over your left leg (assuming you are right handed), which is called the classical position.  The main benefit of using the classical position when sitting down is that it’s the same as when you are standing so there is no need to get used to playing in two positions, which eliminates the above problem.  You will find many electric players these days are adopting the classical position when sitting because of this benefit.

If you are an advanced player, another benefit of the classical position is that you can stretch much wider than you can otherwise.

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Do you need any help or other information on any of these topics? Or maybe enquire about guitar lessons with master teacher Kevin Downing?  If so, click here or call (06) 357 0057

If you are really serious about your guitar skills then you need to read Kevin’s book The Secrets of Successful Practising for Guitarists

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Keeping Things Simple

Many music teachers out there tend to make the learning of music and guitar very complicated, but the legendary teachers are the ones who can make even very complicated concepts and practices simple.  Many music students tend to complicate things as well, and think that if it is not complicated it can’t be good.

It is a standing joke around our studio that “everything is easy”.  Yes, if it is not easy I believe we are doing something wrong as teachers.  Many people believe rocket science is beyond them, but if you know anything about it, then that is simple too.  The trick is in making complicated things easy for yourself.

Whenever we have had major name guitar players here for workshops like, Bruce Forman, Mike Stern, Robben Ford, etc., they all talk about how they tend to keep even the most complicated of things very simple and that they have the systems in place to achieve that.  They invent systems that work for them.  By keeping things simple means they can do things on the fly that many other players would not be able to do.

As guitarists we tend to make things more complicated for ourselves as we get more advanced, but that is the time we should be working on making things easier.  For example, you could easily write a model solo over that chord progression you find a bit tricky to navigate, and improvise over the model solo. Or slow something down to 40 beats per minute to work on some tricky passage or technique you are working on.  Just slowing things down can make a lot of things a lot simpler.

Just think for a minute and find something you are having trouble with.  Then, think how can I make that problem simpler than it is now?  Thinking like this will improve your practising and playing immensely.

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Amateurs practice to get it right – Professionals practice so they never get it wrong.

You might have heard this saying before, but if you haven’t it is very true for most guitar players. You do not have to be a professional to play and think like one, and it doesn’t take much extra effort to play like a pro.  I have many students who can play at a pro level, but are still amateurs.

Generally, amateurs tend to practice something, say a lick, until they get it going great slowly, then quit it.  Others will practice it up to the maximum tempo once, and then quit it.  Then they start looking around for the next lick to learn.  They tend to forget the licks after a short while.

Professionals on the other hand tend to practice a lick up to tempo at least 100 times, memorise it, then look for ways to integrate it into the music they are playing.  Then they can use this lick at any time they want to.

How can you use this approach to improve your playing right now?

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Do you need any help or other information on any of these topics?  Or, maybe enquire about guitar lessons with master teacher Kevin Downing?  If so, click here or call (06) 357 0057

If you are really serious about your guitar skills then you need to read Kevin’s book The Secrets of Successful Practising for Guitarists