Tag Archives: how to play guitar

Jam along with Dave Grohl’s PLAY – ‘The reward of putting effort in an instrument is to play’

Dave Grohl is one of the most diverse musicians in the rock business. He plays drums, guitar and is a pretty good singer. We know Grohl as drummer in Nirvana and of course as frontman of Foo Fighters. In his new project called “PLAY” we see that Grohl is even more skilled than we ever thought. He literally plays a 23 minute song all by himself.

Music is a puzzle

Do you know the feeling of picking up a guitar and thinking that if you could somehow learn to play that one song you love, your life purpose would be fulfilled? But when you actually master the track, it’s like there was never a challenge in playing it. The real challenge is that other song that has a way more difficult chord progression.

Will this quest for full mastery ever end? Dave Grohl doesn’t think so. Even as a highly skilled musician, he says that his battle of becoming better and better never stops. That’s why he wrote, recorded and preformed a 23 minute song all by himself. Just to keep the juices flowing.

Learning how to play

The idea for “PLAY” came about when Grohl watched how his kids were struggling with the same challenges he still has to overcome; becoming better and more skilled in the instrument your playing. It’s a proces of winning, failing and most of all learning.

“When I take my kids to the place where they take their lessons, I see these rooms full of children that are really pushing themselves to figure this out. And even now, as a 49-year-old man, I’m still trying to figure it out… it’s not something that you ever truly master. You’re always chasing the next challenge, and you’re always trying to find a way to improve on what you’ve learned”, Grohl says in “PLAY”.

The reward is to play

In the end the reward you get from pushing yourself to master an instrument is the fact that you can keep playing. Just keep that in mind every time you pick up a guitar, ukelele, drumsticks or your keytar. Check out the song “PLAY” and try to jam along with Dave. Happy jamming!

How do I choose a good beginner’s guitar? Part 2: Acoustic Guitars

Playing the guitar is an adventure, and much of it depends on choosing the right kind for you. In part 1 of this quest for a good beginner’s guitar, we already discussed how to choose between an acoustic and an electric guitar. In this section we will zoom in on the three most well-known versions of the acoustic six string.

If you like Ed Sheeran, Paco de Lucia and Bon Iver, an acoustic guitar will suit your taste. It has the sound you need to jam on a quiet, a raw or a passionate song. Below we discuss three types of acoustic guitars. This will help you choose your beginner’s instrument even better.

Classical Guitar

Every instrument has a foundation; something for the creative mind to explore, develop and improve upon. Although the Spanish guitar has its predecessors, we see the classical instrument as the basis for most modern guitars. When we talk about a Spanish guitar, we refer to the model as conceived by Antonio de Torres Jurado (1817-1892).

With his six strings, the nineteenth-century guitarist and luthier has laid the foundation for the contemporary version of the instrument. The Torres model was superior to the guitars that his competitors build, so guitar makers started to copy the Torres design.

Characteristics Spanish Guitar

The Torres axe is characterized by the beautiful double O curves of the small body. The body is often built of solid spruce or cedar wood. The more firm the wood, the better it resonates with the strings. Additionally, the guitar has a wide neck so the strings are spaced farther apart than on other guitars. This makes the instrument very suitable for finger picking, but less practical for strumming chords.

The rosetta around the sound hole is a reference to the time when the Moors left their mark on Spanish music. The strings of a classical guitar are made of nylon (even the wound strings have a nylon core). This gives the instrument a warm and full sound. Of course, this material did not exist in the nineteenth century. That’s why Torres used strings made from the guts of pigs for his guitars.

Musical styles for the classical guitar

The Spanish guitar is very suitable for classical guitar pieces from the eighteenth and nineteenth century. The work of Johann Sebastian Bach is often played on this instrument, but also contemporary composers such as Britten have written compositions for this guitar. Great guitarists in the classical genre are Andrés Segovia, John Williams, and Julian Bream.

Additionally, the classical guitar is a widely used instrument in Spanish folk music called flamenco. The genre is characterized by exciting rhythms and typical chord progressions. The basic chords for flamenco are Am, G, F, E. Famous flamenco guitarists include Paco de Lucia, Jerónimo Maya, and Charo.

Spanish jam

You can play a Spanish jam yourself by first strumming an A-minor chord, and than switching to E-major. From there on, you can slide this position one fret up. Strum the strings and progress another two frets up. This way you turn the E into an F, and the F into a G.

Because of its warm and full sound, the Spanish guitar is very suitable for intimate and more folky songs. Think, for example, of tracks that involve a lot of finger picking, such as the song Fragile by Sting. The width of the neck provides plenty of space to fret the notes, while the nylon strings ensure that the picking and fretting is less slippery (and less painful!) for your fingers.

Western guitar

But what if classical guitar and flamenco are not your thing? Well, then it’s probably better to not buy a Spanish guitar.. For the more mainstream pop and rock songs, the Western guitar is your instrument. It has a larger body, steel strings, and a narrow neck–through which a metal rod runs. The sound is a lot more snappy and bright than that of the classical guitar.

The history of the Western guitar can’t be traced back to one specific builder as easily like with the Spanish guitar. In fact, there are a number of guitar makers who exceeded all expectations in the early days of this instrument. They experimented with the size of the body, the thickness of the strings, and the action of the guitar.

Western guitar models

The four most famous models of the Western guitar are the double-0, the triple-0, the dreadnought and the super jumbo. The double-0 is almost an exact copy of the classical guitar when looking at the body alone, but the double-0 has a few small adjustments that are characteristic for the Western design. The neck is narrower, the strings are made of steel, and the body is slightly larger. The double-0 is in no way a Loog, but still the smallest of all Western guitars, and therefore most suitable for children.

To give the sound more power, guitar maker Christian Frederick Martin developed a model with a larger body at the beginning of the twentieth century: the so-called triple-0 guitar. This guitar has a slight convex back so as a result the body is not only larger, but also deeper, which makes the bass tones stand out better.

Due to the increase in volume, the triple-0 is also called a grand auditorium. The grand auditorium is a fine entry guitar and many guitarists find the medium-large model easy to handle. Eric Clapton even has his own signature Martin triple-0, the Martin 00028EC.

Dreadnought

C.F. Martin developed the dreadnought for the real bad boys in 1916. This type of guitar was the largest six string you could get on the market at that time. This axe model is named after the then largest warship HMS Dreadnought from 1906. The instrument is characterised by a larger body than the grand auditorium, it has oval square shoulders, and a neck that is connected to the body at the fourteenth fret.

The dreadnought is perhaps the most widely known Western guitar model. The instrument has a fuller, louder, and bolder sound. This makes it ideal for rock ballads and country. You can easily say that the dreadnought is for the Guns ‘n Roses, Elvis, and Johnny Cash lovers.

Super Jumbo

In response to Martin’s dreadnought, guitar maker Gibson built an even bigger and more brutal beast. The body of this guitar is so humongous that Gibson just simply named the six string exactly that: the Super Jumbo.

Artists like Bob Dylan, George Harrison, Jimmy Page, and Chris Isaak embrace the super jumbo and its powerful sound. Still, this guitar has never been as big of a hit as the dreadnought. Because of the large body, the instrument is just too much to handle for the average beginner (and average-sized person).

Selmer guitar

Now I hear you thinking: ‘Pop is cool, rock is okay, classical and flamenco sound great, but I like jazz!’ To get that real jazzy sound–made famous by Jimmy Rosenberg, Django Reinhardt and Fapy Lafertin–you’ll have to look for a special model of guitar. The Selmer guitar–also known as the Gypsy jazz guitar–is a combination of elements found in a Western and a Spanish guitar.

The Selmer model is best known for its D-shaped sound hole, but sometimes an oval-shape (‘petite bouche’) is used instead of the D-shape. The original Selmer guitars date from 1932 to 1952 and were built by the French luthier Selmer and the Italian Mario Maccaferri.

Special model

The Gypsy jazz guitar is very similar to its Spanish sibling, in terms of the width of the neck and the distance between the frets. Additionally, we also see several characteristics of the Western guitar, such as the steel strings and the larger body.

The idea behind the D-shaped hole is that allegedly the sound of the strings will project better and any unevenness of the vibrations will be filtered out. The bridge is adjustable, in contrast to the Western and classical guitar bridges; Maccaferri copied this from the mandolin. The strings come together at the top of the neck in a snakehead-shaped headstock.

Rules of thumb for choosing an acoustic guitar

By now, you’ve got a pretty good idea of the different types of acoustic guitars. Brands such as Selmer, Gibson, Torres, and C.F. Martin are–of course–the cream of the crop among the models mentioned. That said, as a beginner you don’t necessarily need an expensive brand; what you do need is a decent guitar that’s easy to play and sounds great as well (to you, at least).

It is therefore important to know which materials make an instrument sound good. For example, the top–that’s the front of the body–is most commonly made out of cedar or spruce wood, as both resonate really well and also have their own distinct sound.

The top can be either solid wood or plywood–obviously more expensive guitars are mostly solid wood, but guitars with plywood tops can still sound great. Don’t be fooled by whatever clever marketing is out there and simply choose a guitar that meets the rules of thumb above, and you’ll have an instrument for life. Happy jamming!

How to learn basic chord build up

This article is about the basic theory of chords and how to read chord charts.

So let’s talk about chords. A chord is a combination of notes forming a magical harmony, which lies at the basis of Western popular music. Ever asked yourself why we call an E-major an E-major, or why the note B is so important? Maybe it sounds a lot like difficult mumbo jumbo at the moment, but believe me, at the end of this article you’ll be going: well, is that all there is to it?!

Basic chord build up

Before we get started, go and grab your guitar. It’s going to make things a lot easier to explain and you’ll learn faster, if you put theory straight into practice. But if you’re reading this during working hours with no axe in sight, no worries. Just try to picture the guitar neck in your hand and you’ll be fine. All set? Let’s get this party started.

All good things come in threes, or so they say. This definitely applies to the theory of chords. The most frequently encountered chords are triads, so called because they consist of three distinct notes: the root note, and intervals of a third and a fifth above the root note.

Changing major into minor

Let’s start with that E-chord we mentioned earlier. Does our E have an uplifting vibe or does it sound a bit down; major or minor? That’s all up to the moody third. To help yourself understand this better, grab your guitar and position your fingers on the open E-major chord as shown on the chord chart below. Give it a ring. Oh yeah, that’s an E-major alright.

If correctly positioned, the lower E-string is open, this is your root note. Your middle finger is on the second fret of the A-string, right next to the ring finger on D. Your index is holding down the G-string on the first fret. Now that’s the moody third.

The moody third

Why do we call it moody? Release the G-string with your index finger. Now that’s a G-note. Give the whole chord a firm strike. Sounds a bit down, doesn’t it? You just changed your E-major to an E-minor by switching between thirds. Feeling a bit confused? Don’t worry. For now it’s important to remember that the difference between a major chord and a minor chord is just one fret away. Or better put: one blue note.

So, why do we call a third a third? Good question. Here’s an extremely simplified answer. Forget the guitar for a minute and picture a piano keyboard instead. The octave, or the distance from one E to the other, is exactly eight whole notes; eight white keys. If the root note E is our first key, then the second is an F followed by the third, a G.

The octave

If you want to sharpen that G hit the adjacent black key. Unlike the white ones, a black key is half-tone. There are no black keys on the guitar neck, that’s why you switched from major third to minor third by going up or down a fret. Similar to what you would do on a piano keyboard. Makes sense, right?

To add a little bit more body to our E-chord we use the octave. As explained above, this is the same note played eight tones higher or lower. In this case your ring finger is holding down a higher E. If your guitar is tuned in E, striking the chord will sound very powerful. You’re hearing three different octaves: the open lower and open upper E-string, plus the E-note under your ring finger.

The fifth is your muscle

So let’s talk about that middle finger holding down the B-note on the second fret of the A-string. This is what we call the fifth. The root note combined with the fifth creates a solid sound. Adding a fifth is like adding some muscle to the chord. The combination of these two notes is also known as the power chord.

In short: a basic chord consists of a root note, an octave, a third and a fifth. That’s all there is to it. And here comes the fun part: you can apply these rules for any chord. Let’s put this knowledge into practice. Move your E-major one note up, which is one fret down the guitar neck. Your fingers are still in the same position, placed on different frets. Check out the chord chart below.

Going down the guitar neck

Yes, this is an F-major. Because you moved up a note all the strings open in E-major are now covered by your index finger. Remember, that’s one key on the piano keyboard and one fret on your guitar neck. If you move this position one fret down the guitar neck and strike the strings, the chord you’re hearing is a sharp F-major. Another fret down you’ll hear a G-major. And so on.

Every time you release your middle finger (a.k.a. the moody third) you change the chord into a minor. It’s as easy as that. The only thing you have to do is practice your grip. Yeah, I know, it hurts like hell. For now. But if you go down that guitar neck in this position once a day, by the end of the week your fingers will get used to it.