Fender Road Worn™ Player Telecaster
Fender Road Worn™ Player Stratocaster HSS
For Lessons, Advice & Inspiration for Guitar, Check out ‘How to Play Guitar Solos‘
Fender Road Worn™ Player Telecaster
Fender Road Worn™ Player Stratocaster HSS
For Lessons, Advice & Inspiration for Guitar, Check out ‘How to Play Guitar Solos‘
I want to share something with you that can make an average guitarist great, something that enables a beginner to draw from something deep within themselves to come up with something magical, and it’s got very little to do with technique or speed…it’s something so simple that you may have even overlooked it yourself.
What is it? Inspiration. You see, you can have all the technique in the world, the flashy chops (and I don’t mean the hair on the side-o-the face kind), but it doesn’t mean much if your playing doesn’t come from somewhere deeper than the surface.
Every now and then I like to connect to what is going on around me, draw from guitar inspiration from outside sources…and one of the quickest ways to do this is to spend 10-20 mins every now and then online checking out new bands, as well as the ones you know inspire you, in the comfort of your own home. So, put on some headphones and get comfy while you drift off to one of the worlds greatest songwriters, in one of the worlds biggest bands; Dave Gilmour from Pink Floyd. Don’t think about it either or try and watch and learn the technique – there’s plenty of time for that later…
let the music be felt rather than studied.
When was the last time you just got lost in the music?
For many of you this may be the one topic that eludes you every time, I know it did with me for a lot of years. I’m talking about the Holy Grail for guitarists, the most sought after but rarely found thing called ‘tone’. You see, you can have the best gear in town, the most flashy set up, but still have it sound like mud without some core principles of great sound…which by the way is rarely taught unless you get into sound engineering and the like.
If you’re wondering how to get a great guitar tone then you’re in luck as there are quite a few things you can do to improve your sound instantly and at very little cost, and here is just one of them that will point you in the right direction.
Strings are something that guitarists are expected to know about but surprisingly a lot don’t, and they especially don’t know the effect it has on the tone and sound of your playing. There are 2 main things to think about when choosing strings – Flexibility and sound. If you plan to play solos (and my guess is you want to or you wouldn’t be reading this) then you’ll need to be able to bend the strings. The second part is the tone, and that comes from the thickness of the strong, the material and how it’s made.
As a general rule of thumb, the thicker the string the greater the tone.
Choose a set of strings that gives enough flexibility to bend while keeping that control over the note (no more), and gives a fat tone at the same time. If you tune down then you’ll also need to get a heavier gauge string to allow for the depth of sound and to give a little extra clarity. A heavier gauge for lower tunings also keeps the strings tighter, giving you more of a ‘crispness’ to your sound.
Have a close look at the different choices in strings and see what artists are using what (not just endorsing but actually using). You’ll find that there are so many different brands and a few different types, but there are one’s that will give you the edge you’re after for you’re style of music. Have a read of reviews online as well and see what people recommend, and then try them out for yourself!
Keep in mind that you don’t have to buy a standard set of strings in the packet…I get the guys in my local guitar shop to make up custom sets to get exactly what I want, why settle for what other people want to sell you? May as well get what you want:)
For more info on how to select guitar strings check this out
One of the key fundamentals with any music and any instrument is timing and it doesn’t matter what you’re playing, if it’s not in perfect time then it sounds amateur and somewhat annoying for the listener. If you have ever struggled in the past with guitar timing then you may find these ‘guitar solo in time tips’ useful, and hopefully instantly applicable to your playing.
There are two main avenues we can look at in terms of timing, and they are external and internal influences. External influences focus on what is outside of you; things like your guitar setup and the picking action itself, the things that physically go into making the sound. Internal influences come into the category of how you think, hear and structure the notes before they are played. With these two areas in mind, here are some things to think about to get ‘machine like’ timing in everything you play!
Thinking about the Beat – Internally, how you process what you hear makes all the difference. I can guarantee you that you and I could be hearing the same beat but creating different tunes in our mind to play over it, and this matters with timing because you need to hear the accents and where the main notes need to land. If you have a basic 4:4 beat and you are playing a scale over it, the scale will consist of notes in between the beats as well as notes that land dead on the beat. Even if you don’t hear a physical beat you need to learn how to imagine it’s there, as this is what timing is all about – picking where the beat should be and landing dead on it (this is how a solo guitarist can play with no accompaniment and sound good, because the beat is in his/her mind).
Following a specific beat – There are two main ways to physically create a beat to play to; use a metronome and get an instant timing you can play to, or take a little longer and set up a drum machine or drum software. Either way is fine and will do the immediate job at hand, but the advantages of the drum machine are that you feel more inspired because it’s playing real music, and you can have snare accents for example to help create odd timings and different feels. On the other hand metronomes are cheap to buy (there are even free ones online such as this one). Also, if you do get a chance to play with a drummer do it. There’s something that happens with your playing when playing with a real drummer, you become more accountable and are almost forced to become better, especially with your timing.
Pick Attack and Timing – This is the third area to control after the external and internal timing. Pick attack simply means the speed and consistency that the pick strikes the string. If you are playing a basic chord progression and are ‘strumming’ to just get a relaxed feel then you can have a very loose hand while playing the notes as timing will be a bit more forgiving. If you’re playing a guitar solo or anything with single notes or with more speed, then this needs to sharpen up and as a general rule – the faster you play the tighter your picking action needs to become. When playing guitar solos there is a focus on picking the note fast (even if the sequence is slow) to get an immediate and clean sound from the note, and only then can you add your chosen technique to it.
It’s a very handy thing for guitarists who want to learn lead or solo work to first think about the rhythm and groove of the song. Only when you get the feel from that side of things can you add to it with a solo because solos are not usually stand alone pieces, they are enhanced and structured by what’s underneath them (even if it’s not physically played).
As you can see from these guitar solo in time tips, timing comes from a few aspects of the sound, and if you learn to first hear it and then play exactly to it (practicing slowly and evenly at first) then your timing will improve dramatically in a short space of time, and just imagine what happens when you speed it all up?
When learning how to play guitar solos there are quite a few things that first come to mind; technique, speed, picking style for starters…but rarely is hand placement talked about. When I talk about hand placement here I’m referring to the ‘fretting hand’ and not the picking hand, although you could write a whole book on that one.
If you just play by feel and go with what seems comfortable you may stumble across the best way to do things, but you may also fall into some bad habits, or positions that don’t help you to play what you want to play. Once you get into these positions and you naturally go there it can be difficult to retrain yourself…difficult, but not impossible. Here we’ll take a look at what some different positions are and how they can be used in your playing. I’ll also point out some of the pitfalls of using certain techniques and how they can be corrected.
I also want to point out that there are no right or wrong ways to position your hands on the guitar, just ways that work and ways that don’t…
There are two main schools of thought around hand positioning:
Classical or Solo Position & Rock or Bending Position. These have been called many different names but the name itself is irrelevant, so we’ll just use these to illustrate the idea. After looking at these positions from a ‘fingers on the board’ approach, we can also look at the thumb position and find a way to get the result we’re after.
Classical Position – This is often called this because it’s taught as the only effective position on the classical guitar, and with good reason. When you’re playing mostly separate notes, scales, or anything that involves a lot of finger changing and movement (such as guitar solos), it helps to have the fullest access from your fingers and that’s what this position provides.
Technique – This is achieved by placing the thumb facing vertically in the middle of the back of the neck, thereby giving you greater access for your fingers on the fret board.
Rock Position – This is also an effective technique and one that feels more natural to play for a lot of people but it has its limitations, especially when learning how to play guitar solos. The advantage of this technique is getting a controlled grip and general control when doing any sort of bending or movement of the notes (you’ll notice a lot of blues players using the thumb over approach to get the controlled tone and maximized feeling from the notes). The disadvantage is the reduced finger control over faster moving passages such as scale runs etc…
Technique – To do this simply place your thumb further up toward the top of the back of the neck, to the point of gripping the neck like a club and forcing your thumb down for a greater level of control.
To get an idea of the difference in the finger control, start in the first position with your thumb in the center of the neck and move it up to the top – note how your fingers move on the front and how much reach you have in either position! You’ll soon see the advantages of both and if you combine the two in your playing it will give you greater control regardless of what you want to play.
There is one last thing to consider and that is the thumb angle. Some people recommend pointing the thumb along the neck and facing the headstock, try it with both positions and see how comfortable it is to play with, but I have to also point out that the thumb straight up is the most common practice.
Whatever gives you the playability without causing R.S.I. is a good thing!
There has been a lot of talk lately about the ’100 greatest solos of all time’, well this has probably been talked about since the creation of mainstream music. I just thought i’d share the list that people have come up with and the order and sequence, and see what anyone else thinks? For me personally there are a lot on the list that should be where they are (maybe in a different order) but there are also some that didn’t make the list which is a real surprise – Jason Becker for starters (I know he may not be as mainstream but listen to the album Perpetual Burn and tell me he shouldn’t be on this list!).
I guess it comes down to what is popular and heard and voted by the masses, and that’s where most lists come from. However it happens, i want to know what real guitarists think and what they would change and add to this list!
Here it is, all feedback is welcome…
01. Led Zeppelin - Stairway to Heaven
02. Van Halen – Eruption
03. Lynyrd Skynyrd – Freebird
04. Pink Floyd – Comfortably Numb
05. Jimi Hendrix – All Along the Watchtower
06. Guns N’ Roses – November Rain
07. Metallica – One
08. Eagles – Hotel California
09. Ozzy Osbourne – Crazy Train
10. Cream – Crossroads
11. Jimi Hendrix – Voodoo Child (Slight Return)
12. Chuck Berry – Johnny B. Goode
13. Stevie Ray Vaughan – Texas Flood
14. Derek and the Dominos – Layla
15. Deep Purple – Highway Star
16. Led Zeppelin – Heartbreaker
17. Eric Johnson – Cliffs of Dover
18. Jimi Hendrix – Little Wing
19. Pantera – Floods
20. Queen – Bohemian Rhapsody
21. Pink Floyd – Time
22. Dire Straits – Sultans of Swing
23. RATM – Bulls on Parade
24. Metallica – Fade to Black
25. Jethro Tull – Aqualung
26. Nirvana – Smells Like Teen Spirit
27. SRV – Pride and Joy
28. Ozzy Ozborne – Mr. Crowley
29. Steve Vai – For the Love of God
30. Joe Satriani – Surfing With the Alien
31. Ted Nugent – Stranglehold
32. Jimi Hendrix – Machine Gun
33. B.B King – The Thrill Is Gone
34. Radiohead – Paranoid Android
35. Pantera – Cemetery Gates
36. Yngwie Malmsteen – Black Star
37. Guns N’ Roses – Sweet Child O’ Mine
38. Led Zeppelin – Whole Lotta Love
39. Neil Young – Cortez the Killer
40. Steely Dan – Reelin’ in the Years
41. Queen – Brighton Rock
42. Beatles – While My Guitar Gently Weeps
43. ZZ Top – Sharp Dressed Man
44. Pearl Jam – Alive
45. Doors – Light My Fire
46. Van Halen – Hot for Teacher
47. Allman Brothers Band – Jessica
48. Rolling Stones – Sympathy for the Devil
49. Santana – Europa
50. Kiss – Shock Me
51. Ozzy Osbourne – No More Tears
52. Jimi Hendrix – Star-Spangled Banner
53. Led Zeppelin – Since I’ve Been Loving You
54. Smashing Pumpkins – Geek USA
55. Joe Satriani – Satch Boogie
56. Black Sabbath – War Pigs
57. Pantera – Walk
58. Eric Clapton – Cocaine
59. Kinks – You Really Got Me
60. Frank Zappa – Zoot Allures
61. Metallica – Master of Puppets
62. Pink Floyd – Money
63. Red Hot Chili Peppers – Scar Tissue
64. Prince – Little Red Corvette
65. Allman Brothers – Blue Sky
66. Iron Maiden – The Number of the Beast
67. Michael Jackson feat. Eddie Van Halen – Beat It
68. Yes – Starship Trooper
69. Beatles – And Your Bird Can Sing
70. Jimi Hendrix – Purple Haze
71. Funkadelic – Maggot Brain
72. Aerosmith – Walk This Way
73. Phish – Stash
74. Deep Purple – Lazy
75. The Who – Won’t Get Fooled Again
76. Neil Young – Cinnamon Girl
77. Alice In Chains - Man in the Box
78. Grateful Dead – Truckin’
79. Van Halen – Mean Street
80. AC-DC – You Shook Me All Night Long
81. The Velvet Underground – Sweet Jane
82. King Crimson – 21st Century Schizoid Man
83. SRV – Scuttle Buttin’
84. UFO – Lights Out
85. David Bowie – Moonage Daydream
86. Allman Brothers Band – Whipping Post
87. Johnny Winter – Highway 61 Revisited
88. Steely Dan – Kid Charlemagne
89. RATM – Killing in the Name
90. Eric Clapton – Let It Rain
91. Creedence Clearwater Revival – Heard It Through the Grapevine
92. Stray Cats – Stray Cat Strut
93. The Doors – The End
94. Rush – Working Man
95. Pearl Jam – Yellow Ledbetter
96. Rolling Stones – Honky Tonk Woman
97. Judas Priest – Beyond the Realms of Death
98. Dream Theater – Under a Glass Moon
99. Jeff Beck – ‘Cause We’ve Ended as Lovers
100. Bon Jovi – Wanted Dead or Alive
Do you ever get bored playing your guitar to an electronic beep? Although playing to a metronome is one of the most beneficial things you can do for your playing (in more ways than you can imagine) it can sometimes feel a little unreal and more often than not, uninspiring. When learning how to play guitar solos you usually have something to play to, maybe playing over a CD or jamming your favorite song with a friend, but what happens if you’re just practicing techniques, improvisation or composing something new? There is a solution that I have used for years and it has helped me in so many ways, creatively as well as with timing and technique. It is the use of backing tracks and real instruments to play along to.
Backing Tracks are just what Karaoke is to the singing world; a real band track with one instrument taken out so you can play along as if playing with a full band. You can approach these in two ways – buy pre existing backing tracks or what I did, make your own. It’s easy to make your own but I will warn you now, it can cost a little to set yourself up to be able to record these. Here are some things to consider when choosing either way:
Buying Existing Tracks
Does the music inspire you? There are so many tracks available and not all are created equal. Choose ones that are in your genre and that make you want to pick up the guitar and play along!
Can they be used in multiple ways? Some songs are easier to solo to than others and you want to make your money stretch as far as possible. Try to choose tracks that give you multiple ideas and that allow you to open up notes all over the neck.
How’s the quality of the sound? It’s no use playing to something that sounds like it was recorded in a cave during a hail storm! Choose something that sounds well produced and professional after all, the better it sounds the better you will play to it.
Making your own Backing Tracks
What do you really need in order to do this? Drum Machine and some form of recording device – that’s it! You can always get a lot more stuff than this to make professional recordings but that all depends on your budget, so work out what you really need before going to the guitar shop and you won’t get swept up in the moment (speaking from experience here, going in for picks and coming out with a new guitar!).
Drum Machine – There are some free ones online that will give you a decent sound to play along with and depending on what you want to achieve these may be good enough for you. Next step up is the cheap paid versions such as Quickbeats, these are a good alternative and certainly cheap enough. I personally use a program called Fruityloops and add my own sampled drum sounds in which gives the result I’m after, and that’s what it’s about.
Guitar Recording – There are also a lot of ways to record guitar, starting from cheap programs you can download to physical recording devices, but it all depends on what you want to spend. There are programs that you can buy that have a basic plug-and-play guitar recording unit, and that come with a built in drum machine, which are great for the guitarist wanting it easy, and you can get some great sounds that will inspire you for years to come.
At the end of the day you can spend unlimited amounts on recording equipment that you don’t necessarily need, but choose what suits your needs. And if you’re just learning how to play guitar solos from your favourite band and you don’t want to pay anything, find a free drum program (even a trial version) and create a few beats you can play along with and this will enhance your creativity which in turn will improve all aspects of your playing.
Ok, let’s take a look at a technique that is great for a few styles but especially for Rock and Metal, and that is Palm Muting. The definition is fairly self explanatory as it’s just resting the palm on the strings to mute the sound, but when it comes time to actually play it can get a little tricky for newer players. Hopefully by the end of this you’ll have a clear idea of how it works and how you can use it in your own playing.
When learning how to play lead guitar you can get away without knowing this technique, but once again it is something that will spice up your solos and give them an extra dynamic so you should really know what it is and how to use it.
The technique – This is completely a picking hand technique and is played by resting the right side of your palm (for right handers; left handers just reverse it) on the strings close to the bridge, giving the strings a muted or deadened sound. Some people recommend playing by resting on the bridge itself so you’re just touching the strings, but if you know what causes the sound and how to play it you can do it anywhere. I personally mute over the pickups a little further back from the bridge as it’s where I generally pick everything else, so it’s a matter of ease to play as much as I can in the same position. Play around with different positions and see what is comfortable, and I do recommend staying in the same position as you pick everything else.
When using this in your lead playing; whether composing your own or learning how to play lead guitar from someone else, mix it up with everything that you do. As a general rule (and the only real rule in guitar is what sounds good!) keep the deadened sounds like muting for the scale runs and the bulk of the passages, and for anything you want accented that’s where you open up the sound (this works with things like the Wah pedal too, having the pedal up with the closed sound for the majority and opening it up on the accents) – try it and see how it works for you.
That’s it! It’s an easy technique to explain and not so difficult to execute, but be patient with yourself and get it right at slow speeds and it will serve you well in the future…
Here’s palm muting put into practice so you can see it and hear how it actually sounds.
What’s the first thing you think of when you hear the words ‘guitar harmonies’? For a lot of people it’ll be 80’s glam solos and other seemingly outdated styles… but don’t disregard this as it can be a very full and effective sound in most modern styles if played right (and that is the key!). If you’re lucky enough to remember the 80’s solos then you’ll remember that the guitar harmonies were flying hard and fast and were ever so slightly overused, but that was great for that style and time. Now you may have to consider spicing things up a little more in order for it to work, and there is one major way to do this.
If you’ve leaned how to play guitar solos in the 80’s then this can be a rough task to change, but all it takes is wanting to and it can be done. There is one main difference between ye harmonies of old and what is being created now, and that is repetition. Before, it used to be an entire pattern or scale run that was played completely in harmony and sounded somewhat predictable, and that’s why that sound has now dated. Now you can’t really get away with that so much with the new generations of listeners needing everything constantly changing and new (think of the attention spans) so there’s a need to add a mix of harmony parts with other techniques and keep it interesting, and then you’ll separate them from the stereotype of the past.
There are 3 main ways to play a harmony and they are 3rd/ 5th and Octave. The first guitar can play whatever notes you want, and to work out the harmony section it’s simply a matter of working out the note the first guitar is playing and then choosing either the 3rd or 5th note up from that in the scale you wish to play, or choosing the octave (the same note played an octave above or below). It’s really that easy to create a guitar harmony, and this will also help you when learning how to play guitar solos from other bands as the majority will fall into this category. One more thing, when you choose your 3rd/ 5th or octave notes they can be either side of the original guitar notes. If you play a 3rd down from the first guitar, it’s the same ratio but you are just playing the lower harmony part.
Play around with this and think about using it as a way to accent small passages rather than whole scale runs, and you’ll stay clear of the stereotype harmonies – which are still great if that’s the desired effect, but you now have a choice!
Check out this video showing you how to put harmonies to a lead section.
Have you ever wondered how to play guitar solos with the ‘slipperiness’ and ease that a lot of the pro guitarists do? There are a couple of tricks that don’t get talked about that much and are things that you can do immediately to enhance your speed and playing ability on any guitar neck.
First of all, let’s look at the natural things on a guitar that can make it a faster neck to play on, so if you’re in the market for a new one you can make the best choice for what you need at the time. The things to consider on a guitar neck when you’re looking for ease of use and speed for solos and fast riffs in general are neck width, coating, wood choice on both fret board and the neck back, and action (These are just the main neck considerations apart from other things to look for, but that for another time).
Neck Width – There are a few different choices when it comes to the width of the neck, from fatter necks that apparently give you more control over the notes but for some can hinder their speed, and the thin wide necks that are more aimed at speed and free movement. Regardless of which one feels comfortable to you, they are both personal choices as with the rest of these points and should both be played to get a feel for what’s out there and how it plays. I personally find a thin neck much easier to play, but that’s just the choice I have made.
Coating – This is quite often overlooked and can be a key factor in what you can do at high speed. Coating refers to the finish on the wood, so whether it’s a high gloss or more of a matt finish it can affect the way your hand slides across the neck. Some people stick to a gloss finish and find it hard to slide effectively, while others love the feel of it…once again, personal preference.
Wood Choice – You may not feel or hear the difference in the wood choice in the neck and that’s ok, but when learning how to play guitar solos the choice of woods on the fret board you’ll want to pay attention to. There are a few different choices available here from Rosewood, Ebony, and Maple etc…I have played most and found Rosewood was the one for me in terms of having the control over the notes I chose as well as being able to effortlessly slide across the neck, but I know guys that swear by Ebony fret boards. Try a few and look for the one that suits.
Action – This is where it gets fun and this is also the stage you have the most control over. The Action on a guitar simply refers to the height of the strings off the neck and the playability caused as a result. If a guitar has a fast action it means the strings are low to the neck and overall it’s a smooth easy play. Regardless of the previous 3 points, whatever guitar you own you should be able to do something with to improve the action, whether that’s filing down the bridge or nut, to lowering your tremolo system. To get detailed explanation of how to lower your action click here.
There is another trick you can do to make your guitar slippery to play, and that is oiling the fret board. It sounds a little weird and to be honest when I first heard about this I was sceptical, but it works! I’m not talking throwing engine oil over it, but what’s known in Australia as WD-40. Any form of spray lubricant from the hardware store will do nicely (you can also buy a specialized guitar spray from the guitar shop but it costs a bit more and does exactly the same thing). I’ve also heard of people using lemon oil, but I haven’t personally tried that so there’s not much I can say on it.
Just be warned, your fingers will get a bit oily and feel weird at first, but as it soaks into the neck you won’t notice it. I also get a dusting cloth or any smooth cloth and wipe the excess spray into the fret board, just to get an even coverage and less oil on my fingers.
If you oil the neck and make the string action as low as you can without causing any fret buzz, you’ll notice an almost instant improvement in your playing ability!