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Words of Guitar Wisdom By Steve Krenz

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On Miss-Fires aka Missing strings

I'm just starting out. When I try to hit one note or fret, I end up hitting the one next to it or perhaps the string down or up from the string I am intending to hit. What can I do? Is this normal?

First, don't worry. This is completely normal at this stage. (It's actually a pretty short phase that you are in. The left hand mis-fires should settle down in a couple of weeks, usually).

There are actually two parts of this problem. Your fretting hand is figuring out its spacial relationships to the frets and strings and your picking hand is figuring out its spacial relationships to the soundboard and the strings.

Think of it like this. You have got two new kids on the assembly line job. Sometimes one of them will mess up, sometimes the other, sometimes both. And sometimes, with great effort, you can get them both to do a good job and "voila" you pick the right string and finger the right fretted note and music is born!

These sort of misfires occur when your fretting hand is not familiar enough with the fretboard. Your mind knows where your finger should go, the trouble is getting your finger to cooperate and getting it to fret the note specifically enough to find the sweet spot. Also some of the misfires tend to occur from picking the wrong string. Let's say your trying to hit the second string and you accidentally strike the third string. This will also settle down as you gain more familiarity with the picking hand.

Here are some things to help.

For Fretting Hand Misfires - For a while, look at your hands while you try to play the note. (At least for a while. You eventually want to wean yourself off of looking at your hands but for now while you are working on this, go ahead and look at your hands until your fingers have a pretty good idea where to fret the note.

And then try playing the song that you have been working on without looking. Sure, you'll have a few bobbles - that's to be expected.

For Picking Hand Misfires - I suggest playing all the notes you know in order ascending and descending. Let's say you are in Session 2, then play B-C-D-E-F-G. This would be ascending and would take you over the two strings. Then do it descending, G-F-E-D-C-B. Up and Down B-C-D-E-F-G, G-F-E-D-C-B.

Do this several times every time you sit down to play. Look at your hands at first, then try not looking. Say the notes as you play them.

When you get to Session 3 and add the G-A then add them to this exercise, i.e., G-A-B-C-D-E-F-G, G-F-E-D-C-B-A-G.

When you get to the fourth string notes, then add them. D-E-F-G-A-B-C-D-E-F-G, G-F-E-D-C-B-A-G-F-E-D.

And so on. Do this every time you sit down to play. As with everything, it will be difficult at first and you'll make a lot of mistakes, then after a few times it will get a little easier. When you add a few more notes, then you will have to struggle again, but you'll eventually get it.

That's how learning is. Patient climbing. About 3 steps forward. A new challenge comes, then it's one step back. Then three more hard fought steps forward and so on.

Just don't get discouraged. Misfires are normal at this stage. You'll get it. Just keep going, you'll get there.

Thanks for letting me be a part of the process with you.

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How Steve Krenz came about in Teaching 

BEFORE YOU EVEN BEGIN THE COURSE 1) Get your guitar setup.  Learning guitar is hard enough without have to fight to play an instrument that is fighting you back.  Take your guitar down to the loc

On Note Reading I purchased your program and I am having difficulty learning the music notes of session2. Do I really need to learn this part? In general, note reading is important and it will be

Holding the Pick

Thanks for the post. I taught the way to hold the pick (with the the thumb over the pick and on top of the index finger) because that is how I do it. I was just speaking as me - a guitar player. And it is what I do. Other guys do it different ways and get great results.

I think with picking there are several ways that players hold their picks and are still able to get the facility and dexterity and speed that they need to. Some hold it like I do, some hold it between the thumb and the index finger and some arrangement with the middle finger and get great results.

I tried holding it that way and it feels wierd to me so I don't hold it that way. I like the stability that I feel holding over the top of the index finger and the facility that I can get by making very small movements between the thumb and the index finger.

So, I would suggest that you give my way a good try, but also experiment with other ways and weigh the pros and cons to see how it works for you.

I was watching the great Larry Carlton teach and he explained that he uses the side of his pick (yes, the side of his pick) doing upstrokes to create a lot of his signature sound. I've tried this and I still can't get it to sound correct but I think it is fascinating to hear the nuances he can get in his sound using this method.

Give my way a good try, but if it isn't working for you and something else feels better and you can still get the stability and dexterity that you need to pick well then go ahead and try it.

Keep up the great work!

Picks occasionally drop. It's just one of those things. It still happens to me occasionally.

Here are some thoughts.

1) Try a pick with a rougher edge.
I would suggest trying a pick that has a little bit of roughness to it on the parts that are between your fingers. Sometimes the completely slick picks will slip out of your hands easier when you may be strumming hard or when you have sweaty hands.

I use the Jim Dunlop nylon picks which have raised lettering on them which helps me get a good grip on them.

2) Check your grip.
You should have a solid grip on your pick but not to the point that you are tensing up your hand. One of the tendencies you will have after you have dropped your pick is to really grip it hard thinking that that will help when actually it will limit your playing because of the tense muscles. There should be enough force between your pick and fingers that someone couldn't easily pull it from your hand. But also there should not be so much that you don't have a little bit of give as it touches the strings. The trick is gripping the pick solidly between your thumb and first finger while still maintaining a loose wrist.

Dropping your pick happens to all of us occasionally. Don't overly worry too much about it. You'll get better at working with it in time.


Edited by Eracer_Team-DougH
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On Tab Vs Notes

Let me first say this TAB vs. Music Reading debate is about as fundamental as it gets in guitar discussions. Often times the debate gets polarized - us vs. them, TAB readers vs. Music Readers - which I have always found a bit perplexing. It would be the equivalent of someone shouting across the shop floor saying "I am a hammer man and all of you wrench guys are dumb". They are both just tools - each with unique advantages and limitations.

I have nothing wrong with TAB and learning by TAB as long as you realize what TAB can and can't do for you. TAB is a physical representation of how to make music. TAB says "Put your finger here on this fret and the right note and sound will be made". The advantages are that you can make music quickly without going through the laborious task of understanding why these notes sound good together. If all that you are looking to accomplish is to learn how to play the intro or riff to your favourite song then TAB generally works fine.

Here are some of the limitations of TAB. It generally doesn't indicate rhythm. Some TAB have some cues for rhythmic indications but much of it gives no indication to which notes are long and which are short. Another drawback is that TAB on the internet is notoriously inaccurate in all but rare cases. So, while it may have most of the notes to the riff you are looking to learn it leaves out some pretty wide gaps in the full knowledge of what was actually played. And while TAB leaves no indication for a host of other musical nuances like dynamics (loud or soft) or musical form, it's biggest drawback is that it doesn't tell you the "why" of music. Why these notes sound good together? Why does this pattern work over this chord and something else doesn't? If I see this chord in the future and want to solo over the top of it, what should I play? TAB is just not able to answer these types of questions. If these more complex musical questions are of no concern to you and your goal in playing and learning guitar is just to play a few intros and riffs then TAB will do fine for you.

When I am wanting to learn a specific solo or to understand how somebody fingered a particular passage, then the notes on the music reading page doesn't give me this information, but TAB can tell me (if it's accurate) where the guitarist played and how they played this or that. So TAB has it's place in your learning.

But Music Reading has some advantages that TAB can't give you on your way to becoming a great guitarist. Music reading can tell you information about how the notes fit together and why they work together. How they are functioning and how I can use them in the future if I have a similar playing situation. While TAB can tell me to play this series of notes, music reading can tell me that this is a pentatonic scale with an added blues note. I can then use that knowledge to recreate that scale and sound in a different key or when I want to get that sound in the future.

Music reading is more complex and it takes generally a bit longer to learn. You will spend some time playing simple "Yankee Doodle" type songs and your mind will start saying to you "What are you doing wasting your time doing this? What you really want to do is learn how to play this? This is a huge waste of your time and, plus, it takes an incredible amount of effort for you to just end up playing some dumb little song".

This hurdle of music reading is exactly the point where many learners just stop and quit. It's too hard, It's irrelevant, It's frustrating and for a host of other reasons many just give up, content to download some TAB off of the internet and to mess around trying to play their favorite guitar lick. Often times they will find themselves a few years later, still playing the same downloaded TAB sheets and wondering why real understanding of the instrument and significant progress seems to elude them.

Many were trying to use TAB for what it wasn't designed for - that being to help you understand what music was about - the "why" of music.

I have thought about this a great deal and have answered numerous posts about it in the past. Here are a few thoughts from past posts...

...I understand your concern about music reading. If you are already familiar with TAB, sometimes taking the steps to read the notes can get quite frustrating. The reason that I taught music reading in the book is because I feel that learning to read music is the key that will open up a world of guitar concepts to you. It's within the realm of music reading that we can begin to understand what notes make up scales and chords and how to improvise from a position of knowledge and educated guesses as opposed to just trial and error. TAB is a wonderful tool to help guitarists learn to play music easily by just telling them what fret to hit. But it is very limiting when you start asking questions about why these notes function the way that they do. There are plenty of resources available that give TABs to everyone's favorite song and they generally work fine if all you want to do is learn your favorite guitar riff. But our goal was to go beyond just copying somebody else's riff to the place of really understanding what music and guitar playing are really made up of. And in order to do that, I had to introduce basic music reading. Not that you are going to end up playing classical guitar concertos, but so that we could learn the "why" of music. I understand that it can be truly frustrating to go back and try to read the music to play these simple songs when you can already play somewhat better by reading the TABS. I have found that in my experience in teaching many adults in your situation just say "Forget it, it's too much work and I don't even sound that good when I read the music. I can play better just reading the TAB. Besides, who wants to learn how to play Yankee Doodle anyway?". So they quit trying to learn the music and just tell themselves that "Some people can read music and some can't and I am just one of those that can't." From having taught more adults in your situation that I can remember, I am fully convinced that you can learn to read music. Yes, it takes work and practice and at first it's quite frustrating as you struggle to play these simple songs and, yes, you probably can play much better without reading music at this stage. But if you are wanting to get past your current stage then I think the ability to read music may help you. I would encourage you to give music reading a try. Wrestle with these simple songs until you get to the point that you can play a simple melody by just looking at it. Don't give yourself the excuse to avoid the work and quit by saying that it's "too hard and irrelevant". Many players, just like you, face this music reading hurdle and decide to avoid it and end up 10 years later still sitting on their couch trying to figure out the TAB to someone else's music rather than making their own. Music reading is probably the most fundamental skill a musician should have in his arsenal and it has been one of the greatest advantages in my own musical life. Here's a real life example. I was in a rehearsal last night with one of the finest musicians and bass players I have ever played with. I was telling them what notes to play during this particular part of the music because they couldn't read the music well enough to keep up. And I thought to myself, how much further along could they be if they had even a little bit more music reading ability. But as it is now they need the notes to be explained to them in order for them to be able to play. These are just some thoughts. I would encourage you to keep learning and growing and I hope the course helps you in some small way with that. Don't give up. Keep in touch....

... There are many other posts if you want to do just a search on learning TAB and look through the old posts on the old discussion board.

Here are some quick reasons why I have found it more effective to teach people by music reading than by TAB.

1) Music reading is a skill that I think everone who calls themselves a musician should have. This is not some esoteric statement. I play music for a living. I have never had someone give me a piece of paper with TAB written on it to play in any sort of real music situation... ever. It doesn't matter whether you are trying to play in recording studio or play with your churches music team or trying to learn play with a singer for the company Christmas party. TAB is a musical shorthand that only guitarists speak in. When you are trying to play with other musicians you will never see it.

2) If you really want to understand how music works, then music reading will answer those questions. How chords are made, why certain notes work against certain chords while others don't or what notes can I use to solo on over these chords, music reading can answer those questions and TAB can't.

3) On a practical note, there is no way I can notate concepts of scales, keys, and soloing apart from the use of musical notation.

I would encourage you to not give up on music reading and to really think about what I am saying. If all you looking for is to play some riffs for your own recreation then TAB will suffice fine. Not everyone is looking to learn about music, they just want to play for their own enjoyment. And this is perfectly fine. If that is where you are, then great. TAB will work well for you and music reading will just frustrate you.

But if you are really interested in getting beyond learning someone else's intros and licks and really understanding how to make them for yourself, then I think music reading will eventually open up the understanding of the instrument that thus far has eluded you.

I apologize for the length of this post. But I have no apologies for teaching music reading. I firmly believe it is the only way to really get true results in improving people's playing. I have devoted my professional life to playing guitar and teaching people how to play it. I have worked with thousands of guitar players, and music reading is what I have seen that works. It is more than just my personal opinion.


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On Note Reading

I purchased your program and I am having difficulty learning the music notes of session2. Do I really need to learn this part?

In general, note reading is important and it will be a skill that we will use all throughout the course. I realize that it can get frustrating and slow. Here are some suggestions.

1) Write in the letter names of the notes above the notes. Take a few moments before playing the song to write the note names in.

At this stage, there are really two skills that you are trying to accomplish simultaneously - Note recognition (What note is that?) and Guitar playing (How do I play that note on guitar?) It helps sometimes to break up the two tasks by writing in the note names before you play it.

2) Everytime you sit down to play, play through your notes. If you are on Session 2 then you are learning E, F, and G on the 1st string and B, C & D on the second string. So I would encourage you to pick up your guitar and play E-F-G then backwards G-F-E. Then play B-C-D then D-C-B. Then put them both together ascending B-C-D-E-F-G and descending G-F-E-D-C-B. Play the notes and say the letter names as you play them. This will build your memory and muscle coordination.

3) Play through the exercises in the session and the bonus exercises after you have written in the notes. Go nice and slow. Don't worry about speed at all. Speed is not a factor at this stage. Learning your notes is what is important. Start with just the 1st string exercises. Write in the notes then play through them. Just try to get your fingers to cooperate with your brain in finding the right place to finger the note. Play them a few times through. Repetition is great at this stage. Play through the exercise then play it again. When you sit down to play tomorrow play the same exercise again and try to get further into some other exercises.

Slowly your muscle coordination and note recognition will start to build and it will get easier and easier. Exercises that you once really struggled with start to come easier.

After you practice this way for a while then you move on to the next session with more notes to learn. Once you get to the next session try to only write in the notes that are new and just read the other notes that you have already been working with in the previous session. This may be slow at first but pretty quickly it will get easier.

For Session 4 just do the same - write in the new notes only - play through the exercises (even ones from the previous sessions) each time that you practice. Slowly you will be getting quicker at playing through them and the music reading will be coming easier.

Here's a word of encouragement. I know that reading notes is difficult at first. It's tedious and frustrating. You're wanting to play great things but instead you find yourself struggling to play Jingle Bells. Many folks just set their guitar down right at this point. They go back to playing the same three chords that they learned years ago or playing the intro riff to some song that their neighbor taught them and their guitar playing progress stops.

Progress often comes in the slow, tedious waters of learning something new, wrestling with getting your fingers to do new things, stretching your mind to understand things in a new way, or repetition, repetition, repetition.

Like climbing a mountain and struggling with each new step, step by step new challenges await, it's only when you turn around and take a look back where you started that you realize how far you are starting to get.

Yes, I see music reading as vitally important. Without the basic skill of knowing how to read notes and turn them into a simple melody, you are doomed to swim endlessly in the shallow end of the guitar playing pool.

Sure you can download a few inaccuate TABS off of the internet to maybe learn the intro to a song off of the radio. But being able to write your own song out in a way that other musicians can read will be something that you will forever be handicapped from doing. Knowing the joy of being able to pick up a sheet of music and read it and play it without having someone explain it to you is wonderful.

When you know how to read music, you can start to teach yourself because you can read and learn without having to have it explained to you.

I would encourage you to be patient. Take it nice and slow. Write in the notes at first and then slowly wean yourself off of writing them in as much. Build your muscle memory through repetition. Go back through old exercises. Don't worry about making great music at this stage, just keep practicing and wrestling with it a little bit each day. And in a couple of weeks you will look around and find yourself in a new and better place in your guitar playing.

Keep up the great work. Keep Learning and Growing.


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Bracing with the Pinky

Here are some thoughts on the pinky bracing.

The big idea of bracing your pinky is to give your picking hand some stability and a reference point for determining the distances between all of the different strings as you pick them.

Through my teaching experience, I have found that, in general, bracing with your pinky tends to help beginners find the strings better when they first start out. If they don't brace somehow then you end up with a lot of avoidable frustration at missed strings. So, I generally teach complete beginners the bracing of the pinky just to make it easier on them.

I have found that, like training wheels on a bicycle, after they become a bit more proficient of a player that they will quite unconsciously tend to brace less and less some will eventually find some other more comfortable way to play.

When you are strumming chords, there is no need to brace at all with your pinky.

Bracing with your pinky is really for developing stability when playing single notes.

You can move your pinky around as you play if that is comfortable for you.

Actually, I have found that what I do is lightly touch the first string with my pinky as I play (any other string but the first string) and just let it slide around on the first string as it needs to while I play. And when I need to play the first string I tend to angle my wrist so that the fleshy part of my palm at the base of my thumb is resting on the lower strings (6th, 5th, 4th) and this gives me the stabilty I need to play the higher strings (3rd, 2nd, and 1st). Also, an additional advantage is that it mutes the lower strings from ringing unintentionally.

I was never taught to do this, it just happened quite naturally. But this way is a little complex to teach a beginner so I just generally go with the bracing of the pinky which most people seem to do just fine with.

So that's the idea. Use pinky bracing when you're just learning how to play, let's say through the first four sessions. And then after that, use it when you need it. Don't use it on chords and strumming. Bracing is there to help you, not confine you. If you find that you're playing single notes pretty well and now it just bothers you to brace, try going without or finding some other way to brace with your hand.

I hope this helps. Keep up the great work everyone!


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On Key Signatures

Hopefully, I can try to clear up some of your confusion. I did a post on the old discussion board which I found after some searching that explains key signatures pretty well. Here it is...

It seems like the concepts of accidentals and key signatures are just a little more prone to confusion. In a nutshell, here it is.

Sharps or Flats for Just One Note.
If I just need an accidental (sharp or flat) for one particular note in a specific measure, then I just put the accidental on just that note. It stays in affect for rest of that measure and then resets back to normal.

Sharps of Flats for the Whole Song
If I want for all of the notes in a whole song to have the same accidental then instead of writing it on every occurance of that note through the whole song I just put it in the key signature which appears beteen the treble clef and the time signature on the first line and then after the treble clef on every remaining line of music.

So, for example, if I just want one "F#" (as in the second full measure of Greensleeves on Pg 42) then I just put the sharp by the "F" and then it resets back to normal at the end of that measure. But, if I want all of the "F"'s to be sharped then, I put a sharp sign in the key signature as in The Banana Boat Song on pg 42. Then all the "F"'s are sharped for the entire song automatically and I don't need to put a sharp next to each individual "F".

Key Signatures
Now, that is the general difference in the two uses, but now that you are farther along it's time to explain a little more about key signatures. Key signatures mean a little more than just affecting certain notes with sharps and flats. The notes that are sharped and flatted in a key signature are not as random as they might first appear. The specific sharps and flats used in a key signature are derived from the major scale of any key. They correspond to the major scale.

For example, you wouldn't ever see sharps and flats in the same key signature because major scales don't mix sharps and flats in the same scale. A major scale is a pattern of whole steps and half-steps. You can start on any of the twelve different notes and if you follow the pattern of whole steps and half steps for a major scale then you will end up with the major scale in that key. In order to get the correct pattern of whole-steps and half-steps for a major scale you will need to sharp or flat certain notes along the way.

So, for each of the twelve major scales, you will end up deriving twelve different combinations of accidentals in the key signatures. Some keys will end up using sharps, some will use flats, and one of the twelve keys requires no adjusting of the notes. The key of C does not need any of the notes to be adjusted in order to create a major scale so the key signature appears blank. The pattern of whole-steps and half-steps to make a major scale is described on pg.45.

In the key of C, all of the notes work out with none of them needing a sharp or flat in order for the pattern to be created. But in the key of G, all of the notes work until you get to "F". The "F" needs to be a whole step above the "E", according to the pattern. And an "E" and an "F" are only a half-step apart. So, in order to make a whole step between them then I need to push the "F" one step farther up from the "E", by adding a sharp to it, making it an "F#".

So, we would say that the key of G has one sharp in it, an "F#", as in the Banana Boat Song. Sorry about the long explanation. I hope this helps. Keep working on understanding all of this. What seems frustrating and illogical now will eventually become clear as you understand them better and work with them. Keep going! - Steve Krenz[/quote]

On Minor and Major Pentatonic Scale Usage

I noticed in the soloing part in learning pentatonic scales you had me use the Am pentatonic scale and yet the blues song was written in A7. I did fine and it sounded great. However, just by me myself looking at it I would have thought I would have used the A major pentatonic scale since the song was in a major key and not a minor key. Can you explain?

OK, here's the scoop on using the minor pentatonic over what would seem to be a major chord progression.

It's all about the sound that the particular scale creates when played over specific combinations of chords - and what sound are you going for.

In most songs, it's pretty straight forward. If the song is in A major, with chords like A, D, F#m and E7, then you can use the A major pentatonic scale to achieve a good "safe" collection of notes to solo over.

And the same thing is true in minor. If you have a song filled with chords like Am, Dm, and an occasional E7, then you are pretty solidly in A minor. So, dust off the A minor pentatonic and it will work fine.

But here in your example of the A Blues we have a musical grey area between major and minor. You can still use an A major pentatonic to solo over the top of it and it will work fine - nothing will clash but you will be missing the "bluesy" character to the notes. And it's that bluesy character, brought on by certain note choices, that gives the Blues that characteristicly blues sound.

But if you use an A minor pentatonic scale over the A blues progression filled with A7, D7 and E7, then it adds those bluesy sounding notes like the flatted third, C, in the key of A and the flatted seventh note, G.

And then you sound like a blues player. Add the minor pentatonic scale, a couple of lines about "my woman done left me" and some dark sunglasses and you're ready to officially become a blues guitar player. (But of course you need to change your name from Denny to Blind Lemon Denny in order to get the full effect.)

You can substitute the minor pentatonic scale for the major pentatonic scale any time that you want to achieve this bluesy sound.

Let's say your song is in G, with chords like G - Em - C - D. You can play the G major pentatonic scale, but if you wanted to sound bluesy you could play a little bit in G minor pentatonic to hit those blues notes.

But be careful, don't substitute the minor pentatonic scale for the major pentatonic in just every major chord progression you find. It doesn't work in all musical situations. If you are playing a pretty slow song with your band as you are serenading your sweetheart, and you slip in the minor pentatonic, you are going to sound dumb and musically out of touch with what the song is needing.

But, on the other hand, if the marquis says, "Blind Lemon Denny and his all star blues band" appearing tonight then I would play the minor pentatonic scale all night long no matter what song was on.

But, all kidding around aside, I would encourage you to experiment with it a little bit. Try approaching a solo from the major pentatonic scale over the A Blues changes and then try it again using the minor pentatonic scale and hear how the sound changes. Your ear will start to tell you when it is appropriate to throw in the minor pentatonic scale into an otherwise major chord progression.

I hope this helps. Keep up the great work

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On Soloing and Pentatonic Scales

I have managed to reach session 11 and understand the 5 pentatonic forms. However, that is also where I got seriously confused. I am unable to relate pentatonic scales with actually playing solo. Consolation is I do understand the relationship between major roots and the forms but am still unable to relate with playing.

For example, for track 17 for the Jam Along CD, what is the significance of these A7, D7 chords? How do I play with 1st form with the chords? Also, do I have to start hitting the minor roots first (A) or can I start with major roots ©? How do I relate the major or minor roots with a song?

The song A Minor Pentatonic Blues on pg. 66 of the lesson book is basically an A blues. I suggested that you play an A minor pentatonic scale through the whole song (over all of the chord changes) because I wanted you to hear how you can use one scale as a basis to solo from for a whole song.

When I use the minor pentatonic scale over what would normally be a major root, I end up with this "bluesy" sound which works well when I want to get that sound. Since the song is a blues in A, I used it here in this example. So I was able to get a bluesy sound by using the A Minor pentatonic scale over the A7 (and other) chords.

Now, I can use the Major Pentatonic over those chords as well. For example, using an A Major pentatonic over the A7 chords. This works completely fine, although you will notice that I lose the "bluesy" sound".

I can also try to skip between the scales based on the various chords. For example, playing an A pentatonic scale for the A7 chord, a D pentatonic scale for the D7 chord, and an E pentatonic scale over the E7 chord. This is a completely valid way to approach it but you have to skip between scales pretty quick so it doesn't lend itself to being able to solo over very easily.

Now, let me address the second part of your question. How do I transfer my knowledge of how to play a scale into something that works for a solo instead of sounding just like I am playing the scale. Well, that is a bit more complicated.

Let me put it this way. An English teacher can teach you the alphabet and letters but it is up to you to put together a story. That's how it is with scales. The scales are just the alphabet. But scales, by themselves, aren't very interesting. Here are some ideas to get your soloing started.

1) Pick just a couple of notes from the scale, not the whole scale and try to make something musical happen with it. Just start with two notes. Then maybe add a third. These are musical baby steps.

2) Once you have gotten a couple of ideas. Try them in different octaves, then maybe add a fourth note.

3) Try bending a couple of your notes. Listen to what notes sound good bent and which ones don't work as well.

4) Try some different rhythms. Repeat some notes or hold some out.

The key that takes you from playing scales into making a solo is called experimentation. Sometimes it is frustrating, sometimes it is exhilarating, but it always takes effort. So, take a few minutes of your daily practice time to start experimenting.

Keep up the great work!


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On Soloing and Scales

I am learning the pentatonic scales & soloing and I am a bit confused with key signatures. The way I understand it the notes in the C scale are C, D, E, G & A. So, if I a song is in the key of C does that mean I can only play these notes around the fretboard? Or does it include the notes that are in say the D scale as well for example F#. I have an amp that will play a loop in a given key, but I am not sure what notes I can use. It does not seem right that I can only use five notes.

You raise a great question. Here's the deal.

You are correct, the pentatonic scale in C major is C-D-E-G-A. The major scale in C or the C major scale is C-D-E-F-G-A-B-C.

In any key, the major scale in that key represents all of the "safe" notes to play.

So, if the song is in C, then if I stay within the notes of the C major scale as I solo, I'll, for the most part, have no problem creating a good musical solo that works.

Now the pentatonic scale represents a subset of the major scale that only includes the 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 5th, and 6th steps. Think of these as the "safest" of the safe notes.

So, if the song is in C major with chords like C - Am - F - G, and I really wanted a good easy way to sound good soloing then I would stick with the C major pentatonic scale.

I am dumbing down the musical theory behind this quite a bit. I realize that there is actually a lot more to it than this. Each chord in the chord progression represents a collection of notes. If I work these various collections of notes in as I solo over the particular chord changes then my solo sound more musically interesting and that it is moving somewhere.

But it would all stay in the key of C, not any other key. If I suddenly played a D scale with F#'s and C#'s being emphasized while the band was playing their song in C, then I would sound wrong.

But let me answer the larger issue that you raise about what notes can I use as I solo. The short answer is that you can use any note you want - all 12 notes. The trick is making the right choices to go over the right chords at the right time.

Think of it this way. When you are just starting to learn how to draw, you get the small crayola box with 5 colors (the pentatonic scale). You have a lot of fun but after a while you notice that all of your pictures look pretty similar because they are only using 5 colors.

So, in your quest for a bit more variety, you get the box with 8 colors (the major scale). You realize that you have some more colors to choose from but you also have to be a bit more careful about when you use some colors because in some situations they work but in others they don't work as well.

When you were just starting, it was ok for a tree to be red but as you gain more understanding you realize it's better for a tree to have a brown trunk and green leaves. And musically, when you were just starting it was OK, to play the C major pentatonic over a G7 chord, but actually it is better to use the F and B notes to make the G7 sound more accurate.

So, as you figure that out through experimentation and knowledge of chords and colors, you want to expand a bit more so we get a few more colors added to our box when we start adding blues notes. You learn about shading some of the notes and colors you already have.

Until finally we end up with a complete box of 12 crayons and then we can create a Monet masterpiece of a solo with all kinds of nuance and shading and subtlety.

Now, of course, it doesn't mean that all notes are equal in their importance. Obviously, the notes in the key are going to be your pillars of tonality.

So, if I am in the key of C and I play a G whole note, it's generally going to sound correct (because a G is in the key of C). But if I play an F# whole note, I will definitely sound wrong. (because it is not in the key of C)

But that doesn't mean I could never use an F# in the key of C. Let's say, if I want to get from an F to a G, and I dance for a second on the F# on my way from the F to the G that it wouldn't sound perfectly fine - even hip.

So, you can use any note but the trick is knowing which notes work and which ones don't at any point in time.

I hope this helps and that I haven't confused you even further. You are certainly able to use more notes in soloing than just the pentatonic scale. I just introduced it that way because it is an easy place to start to learn how to solo. Sorry for the long answer.

Keep Learning and Growing!


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Suspended chords come in a couple of different flavors and they can be used in a variety of ways to create pleasing sounds.

Let's delve deep into the darkness of the trench of music theory. (Actually, it's not too dark where suspended chords live. Now, atonal music, quartal harmony, and 12 tone rows - that's enough to make any music major shiver.)

Although I don't know the musical history of suspended chords, here is what they do. You are basically "suspending" or adjusting the third of the chord either up or down. When you adjust the 3rd down from it's normal 1-3-5 form, then it makes it a 1-2-5.

The 1-2-5 combination of notes creates a very "open" sound that, as John said, is neither major or minor sounding. What determines a happy "major" sound and what determines a sad "minor" sound is the 3rd of the chord. But the 1-2-5 omits the 3rd, thus neutralizing the major or minor sounding tonality.

The 1-2-5 chord in the key of C would be C-D-G. This combination of notes is called many things Cadd2, Csus2, or more commonly C2.

What in the real world are C2's good for? I'm glad you asked. They are great for chord substitutions. Since they are neither major or minor then they work equally as well in either tonality to provide an open sounding chord.

The other type of sus chord would involve suspending the 3rd up one note to get 1-4-5.

This chord, like the other, is neither major or minor in sound. BUT, and this is a big but, this chord does not sound settled. This chord WANTS TO RESOLVE. It could resolve to a major or to a minor.

In music there is tension and resolution - with infinite degrees of variation of each. There are chords that lead to other chords and then there are chords of finality or resolution. This constant pulling and tugging musically is what makes chord changes interesting.

Diminished & Augmented chords are chords of tension that scream out to be resolved. You don't end a song on a diminished chord or an augmented chord.

Back to suspended chords, suspended chords want to resolve.

I could go on much more here but I'll stop.

These 1-4-5 chords can be notated Csus or Csus4. In the common guitar vernacular Csus is used more commonly.

When the seventh is added to our triad you get 1-4-5-b7. This suspended dominant seventh chord is very common. So, common that the names are used interchangebly. Most often suspended chords are used as the V chord in any key that would resolve to the I chord.

And a Gsus7 going to a C would be a great example of this. So, since suspended chords are most often used on the V chord in any key then, to add the seventh to the sus chord, is almost so common as to be understood. So, when I am using the chord in this way and it is notated as a Gsus, it is quite customary to add the b7 making it a Gsus7.

I hope this helps.


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initial question about chords. You touch on two quirky chord types that don't really follow the rules too well so I understand the confusion.

The diminished chord is a unique chord because all of the intervals within it are identical - a minor 3rd (or a Step and a Half).

For example, in C, a diminished triad is C-Eb-Gb. The distance from C to Eb is a minor 3rd and the distance from Eb to Gb is also a minor 3rd. If we did the seventh version of the chord it would be C-Eb-Gb-Bbb(A). With the last interval Gb-Bbb(A) being another minor 3rd. To complete the circle, the distance from Bbb(A) to C is also a minor 3rd.

Think of it as a musical repeating number.

OK, armed with this information, let's get back to your question about the difference between a triad diminished chord and the seventh diminished chord.

In almost every musical situation that I can think of, a B diminished triad (B-D-F) and a four note (adding the diminished seventh) version (B-D-F-Ab) would be musically interchangeable. I guess our ear doesn't have a problem with this because of the nature of the repeating intervals. So, in real music, I can use the triad and seventh chord versions interchangeably.

Suspended chords and Suspended 7th chords create a similar musical exception.

Typically, in everyday music, a suspended chord is used in either of two ways.

1) The suspended chord works on the V chord in a key (the dominant) and then resolves to the I chord as in the progression... Asus - D.
2) The suspended chord is used on the I chord as a variation of the I chord as in the progression... D - Dsus - D.

When using the suspended chord as the V chord in a key, then it is perfectly fine to add the 7th step into the suspended chord making an Asus (A-D-E) into an Asus7 (A-D-E-G). This works because the V chord in a key includes the dominant seventh. So, in the key of D an Asus and an Asus7 could be used interchangebly.

But, when using the suspended chord as a variation of the I chord as in example 2 (D-Dsus-D) you wouldn't want to substitute in the Dsus7. When using the suspended chord as a variation of the I, you generally use just the triad versions of both. D (D-F#-A) and Dsus (D-G-A).

I hope this helps.


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Hello all of you new learners!

Tis the season for a wave of new people to join our guitar family. We're glad you're here. It's going to be a great year for you and your learning. Don't believe the nay-sayers. You can learn how to play guitar.

I wanted to give you some advice.

No matter what. Don't spend more than 2 weeks on Session 1. The purpose of Session 1 is to prepare you to learn. It gets your fingers toughened up and it gets them used to fingering the strings. The real learning starts in Session 2. Session 1 is the warm up. Session 2 is when you get out on the field.

Many people start their learning journey and immediately get stuck by assuming that since they can't play everything absolutely perfect then they can't move on to Session 2. The purpose of Session 1 is not perfection. It is just to get your fingers toughened up and your motor skills working.

Don't stress out about the C and G7 chords and how your fingers can't play all the notes or how they hit adjacent strings. I just gave them to you so that you would get the basic idea of how a chord is notated and what you need to play. If you can form the chord correctly and get your fingers in the right place then that's all of my goal for Session 1.

Don't worry about all of the notes not sounding out clearly. This is due to your hand strength not being developed enough yet. By the time you get to Session 5 you will be able to play those chords just fine.

It's not about counting minutes. At this stage, the goal is to get into the daily pattern of spending a few minutes with your instrument. You will get farther by playing 10 minutes each day than if you play 90 minutes on Sunday and then never play again for the rest of the week.

Don't worry about how you sound or how good you think you should be. Or how frustrated you get with yourself at not being able to do something. Don't worry about any of that. Right now, you are a toddler trying to learn how to walk. I'm not expecting you to be doing the perfect Tango on Dancing with the Stars. Right now, in these early sessions, you are the little toddler that is pulling himself up on the coffee table and starting to take a few wobbly steps. Sure, you are going to fall. Falling is expected. Making mistakes and missing notes is expected. Making mistakes is no indication of your future ability.

In Session 1, I am not concerned at all about perfection, and neither should you be. Just take a few minutes each day and do the exercises. Don't worry about "feeling" excited about it or not. Feelings will come and go - they are no indication of how you are doing. It doesn't matter whether you think yourself a musical person or not. Your view of yourself as musical or non-musical is no indication on how far you can go with guitar playing.

Well, there are a few thoughts for you from someone who has walked many, many people through the journey that you are now on. I am confident that you can turn into a guitar player.

The only person that can disqualify you at this point is you. Too many people way over-think the guitar learning process, especially at these beginning stages. Don't think and worry about it. Just do the exercises for a few minutes each day - whether you feel like it or not. It's like brushing your teeth.

In a few weeks you will be playing things you never thought possible.

I'm honored and proud to be your cyber-teacher.


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Where does this course lead us in Music understanding?

Here is my overall goal for all of the music theory...

So that you can stand up on a bandstand and look at a piece of music and understand...

...what key you are to play in

...how to play the melody of the song

...what chords are being used

...how you can elaborate on those chords as you play rhythm

...how you can create a solo over those chords

That's my goal. To create a guitar player that can do those things.

In order to do that I have to give you lots of pieces of information in the correct order to get you there. If I give you too little, you don't learn and get frustrated. If I give you too much, you don't learn and get frustrated. If I under-explain it, then you don't understand why something is meaningful. If I over-explain it too early, you get frustrated.

So, getting the order correct is important as well as giving you the information in small enough bite-sized pieces so that you don't get overwhelmed.

Over the course of my own teaching I've found that this particular order of information seems to work the best. And that is what I put in the course.

Here is the basic flow of the Music Theory information.

Session 2 - Music Reading
Purpose: You've got to learn the language of music so that we can communicate. I can't talk to you or instruct you unless you can understand the language.

Sessions 3-6 - Music Reading Practice
Purpose: Lots of practice reading music and playing it on guitar.

Session 7 - Major Scales
Purpose: Scales are the building blocks for chords, chord harmony, soloing and everything else in music. In order to get to those we need to understand the structure of these melodic patterns.

Session 8 - Keys & Key Signatures
Purpose: Deriving from scales the specific patterns for all twelve keys.

Session 9 - Intervals
Purpose: To understand the various intervals in a scale and key.

Session 11 - Pentatonic Scales & Major and Minor Roots
Purpose: The pentatonic scale is a very helpful major scale variation that is constantly used in guitar playing. Also, understanding the unique and very helpful relationship between the Relative Major & Minor roots in a key.

Session 12 - Beginning Chord Substitution
Purpose: To introduce the idea that chords can be elaborated upon. I don't teach the theory here, just the application of it.

Session 13 - An Altered Pentatonic Scale with Blues Notes, Triads
Purpose: Showing how a pentatonic scale can be altered to create other scales and sounds. Also, it's very characteristic and helpful in blues.
Purpose Triads: The building blocks of chord theory. How three-note chords are made and their types.

Session 15 - Harmonized Major Scale
Purpose: How chords relate to each other in a key.

Session 17 - Seventh chords
Purpose: How four-note chords are made.

Session 18 - Chord Harmony
Purpose: To show how chords and chord changes can be elaborated on.

Session 20 - Advanced Chord Construction
Purpose: To show how advanced chords are formed.

I fully realize that some people learn more from just being told what to do and trusting the instructor to lead them the best way. And for others it is helpful to see some overall context in order to understand how to assimilate the information that is being given to them at any particular stage in the process.

There are obvious points in the course where I just tell the learner to do this. In other words, I give the application before the understanding. With other concepts the understanding has to come first in order for the application to make sense.

I hope this helps.


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Struggling on a Particular Session/Exercise/Lesson/Song

1) Why do I seem to be unable to breakthrough on this one task? It seems like even things I already know seem to fall apart in this one task.

2) What to do when you find yourself in this situation?

The short answer: You are at the far outer reaches of your ability.

The long answer: If your brain was a CPU, it would be at about 98% of it's usage when you are playing Minuet in C. You're just maxing out it's ability to process all of the tasks.

You can play the Notes in the First Position up and down no problem (Brain CPU Usage 60%).

You can play rhythm exercises no problem (Brain CPU Usage 60%).

But playing the notes up and down, changing direction, according to a specific rhythm that changes from line to line (Brain CPU Usage - Maxed Out!)

When your brain gets maxed out it starts dropping things - things that when it is not maxed out it could handle.

Think of it like this. Let's say I asked you to dance a simple repeated sequence of steps with your feet. - Easy Task.

Or I could ask you to throw a ball up and catch it repeatedly - Easy Task.

Or I ask you to say the alphabet back-wards skipping every other letter. - An obtainable task, but it requires a bit of concentration.

Each of these tasks is completely within your realm of ability and each can be done relatively easily.

But what if I asked you to do them all at the same time. Physically, it's very possible, but mentally, this would be pretty tricky to keep up with and the brain might could do it for a brief moment but eventually one of the otherwise easy tasks would get mixed up.

So there is what's happening neurologically. Now, the good news is that your brain will grow rapidly in its ability to process all of these tasks. So...

Today's impossible struggle is tomorrow's warm-up exercise.

Occasionally, in your guitar learning journey, you are going to run into these "Wow, I just can't seem to get this." problems. Minuet in C might be the first you have come up against. But in a few months it might be something else - similar struggle, just a different name. Minuet in C, Barre Chords, Canon in D, Strumming, Pentatonic Scales - just fill in the blank with your "impossible struggle of the moment".

What to do?

1) Break the song down into smaller pieces.
Take the song and split it up into bite-sized pieces. Instead of wrestling through it from beginning to end, give your brain some time to work out the solutions to the musical problems in much smaller pieces.

Start with 2 bar phrases. Just work on the first 2 bars. Once you can play them fairly securely, then move on to bars 3 and 4 and work those. Play bars 3 & 4 over and over until you can play those securely. Then go back and play bars 1&2 a few times to remind yourself how you did those and then try to add bars 3 & 4 to them playing bars 1-4. (Don't be surprised when you play bars 1&2 perfectly, and then play bars 3&4 perfectly, that when you put them together (bars 1-4) that something falls apart. See the first explanation above.)

2) Take it Slow. When you are working out the finger gymnastics of a particular passage, go slow - ridiculously slow - so that you can train your muscles to do what they need to do. Once you have the correct movements down and can play it perfectly (albeit slow) then play it over and over again. This will train your muscles in the proper coordination.

Only once the muscles are comfortable in the proper moves can you begin to speed them up.

If you try to play something faster than the muscle coordination can keep up, then you will always miss a note here and there. Slow things down to work out the muscle coordination and only then begin speeding the moves up gradually.

3) Work on the problem area for a while and then put your guitar down and go do something else. I don't know why this works, but I've seen this work time and time again. I'm working on something, banging my head against some musical problem, making frustratingly little progress. Then I'll put my guitar down and go play some basketball or something for a few minutes, then I come back to the problem and I can suddenly play through the hard section of the song, when I was previously unable to do so.

It's like the brain needs some "cool down" time and once it comes back after a time of doing another task, it can now process the problem better.

4) If you just can't seem to make any progress after many practice sessions on the same musical problem and you are just getting frustrated and discouraged, then wipe the dust off your feet and move on.

In your guitar learning journey you are going to occasionally run up against a song or musical problem that fits into this category. Don't let it stop your progress.

There will be some songs or tasks that are going to take a long time to master. They can and will be mastered eventually, but it's just not going to happen in the normal course of practicing.

I think barre chords for most people fits clearly into this category. They initially approach it as "Well, with a little bit of work, I'll get this. The last concept took 2 weeks to get, I'm sure this will be the same" And they don't realize they have come up against a "6 month" problem, not the normal "2 week" problem.

The secret is to realize when something is a "6 month" problem and then move on to new smaller "2 week" challenges while still working on the "6 month" problem for a few minutes each practice session.

Sorry to be so long-winded. It's the middle of night here in Nashville on a stormy night, with a stressful day ahead of me tomorrow, and I am having a bit of trouble sleeping so answering a few questions on the discussion board is just the trick to clear my head so that I can get back to sleep.

I hope this helps.

Don't be discouraged, confused, or frustrated. These problems are something you need to learn how to work with as you learn. All of these musical problems will get mastered eventually, it's just some problems require different tools.

In no time you'll be on to other challenges and you'll flip back nostalgically a few pages in your book to good ole Minuet in C and play it perfectly the first time, smile and think to yourself "Wow, I remember when I thought I would never be able to play that." As you progress in your ability you will be able to look back and find more and more of those "impossible struggles" in your rear-view mirror.

Keep Learning & Growing.



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Finding your way in playing even if you have experience playing

I believe you can do it too. In fact, I know you can do it. Here are some things I feel are going to help you get to your goals.

I've been teaching lessons for way too long and if anything, I can say I've at least become knowledgeable about HOW people learn guitar - the process of learning guitar. I've literally taught thousands of lessons and I've walked numerous people with your similar playing goals and experiences through to guitar playing. Along the way I've found certain pitfalls and detours that will derail many people in your situation.

Think of it like this. It's me and you on the bottom of the mountain. You want to get to the top. I've taken countless people to the top - it's what I do everyday (I'm a guitar playing sherpa). Since you have already done some mountain climbing, you feel confident that you have a pretty good idea of the way. I, as the sherpa guide, know that there are some unique challenges that you will face and can conquer if you just aren't enticed and fall into them.

With that little story in your mind. Here is the pre-mountain climbing briefing from the sherpa.

I can say, for now, the best thing is to completely put away in your mind your past playing experience. To rely on it now is only going to confuse you, possibly derail you, and at best delay you getting to the top. Pretend you have never seen a guitar before and trust what I tell you and give you to do. Do the exercises, faithfully and seriously. Don't blow off anything thinking "This is baby stuff, this guy doesn't know what he's talking about."

Now, on some things, your past playing experience will allow you to move more quickly. This is great. Just make sure that you are fully doing what I am asking you to do - not short cutting it. You may be able to move through the first sessions fairly quickly. BUT DON'T SKIP THEM OR BLOW THEM OFF. There are going to be concepts you are going to need in order to move further.

After a while then the proper ground work will have been laid and then you can begin to incorporate some of the good from your old playing into your new playing. But at first, just trust me, and approach it as if you had never seen a guitar before. Trust me, it will go faster for you. Relying and comparing everything to your past playing will only confuse things and slow down your progress.

FORGET YOUR BROTHER (or any Nay-Sayer).
This is your journey. It's not going to look like his. Let me say that again.

This is your journey. It is not going to look like his.

In fact, your brother might very well be the one initially that is going to say to you things like...

"So, you're taking a new course, well, I never learned from a course..."

"What! He's teaching you how to read music. Real musicians don't read music. I've played for little clubs for years and I don't know how to read music..."

"Look at this dumb little tunes your playing. This way is never going to get you anywhere. You're wasting your time."

This is your race, not your brothers. Don't even tell him you are trying to learn how to play. It will only discourage you.

Your goal is not to play like your brother. It's to be the best guitar player YOU can be.

Don't rush. Let yourself learn. Your first challenge will be to survive the walk through the "forest of voices".

When you first start you will have a ton of voices in your head as you are playing these simple exercises and songs telling you that you are wasting your time and money and you will never learn how to play guitar this way. At times they will be deafening to you as you are struggling to play dumb songs like "Jingle Bells". The first trap you are going to encounter is the "forest of voices". They have derailed the guitar playing dreams of many.

Don't listen to them. Just keep working. They will eventually be proved wrong, but in the mean time they can kill your dream. Be patient. Just keep working. Don't get trapped by them.

Practice a little each day. Build it into your routine. Some days you are going to feel like it, others not. Your "feelings" at this stage are no indication of your future success.

Make it like brushing your teeth. 20 minutes at a set time that you go up and do the exercises - with or without "good feelings". Whether one particular practice time was a good practice time or a bad one doesn't matter. Just keep doing it - step by step, exercise by exercise, practice session by practice session. Eventually in a few weeks or month. You will musically, turn around as you are climbing and say "Wow, I really have come a long way."

I look forward to working with you to get you to your goals.

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Steve on Session 4 Problems

You aren't the first to vent about Session 4 and I'm sure you won't be the last... or even the last this week.

I fully realize it is extremely frustrating ESPECIALLY for you who has already had some playing experience.

Basic music reading is a wall that you are currently chipping away at. Behind that wall is a wealth of musical understanding that, up to this point, has eluded you.

This isn't just Steve's little bit of sunshine and encouragement. It is a practical fact that I have seen worked out through player after player a thousand times over the years. Right now it seems extremely frustrating. Your fingers won't cooperate. Even though you've played these notes a thousand times, you struggle with getting your fingers to play them while you are reading the music. It's frustrating, tedious work that seems to be only yielding minuscule results that quickly evaporate the moment your concentration wanes.

All of the notes, and now with added sharps and flats, your mind is spinning frantically to keep it all straight all the while while the voice inside of your head is saying "Forget this, it's not worth it. You can play fine without learning to read the notes. Besides all of the great players didn't read notes, why should you. In fact, you play better without reading the notes."

Here are some quick tips...

1) Relax. There is no time limit. Session 4 usually takes at least twice the amount of time for the average student to conquer than the earlier sessions. Session 4 is the last stand for your basic music reading skills. If you can conquer it on the field here then everything else will fall into place.

2) Slow Down. Take the exercises and songs painfully slow. Shut the door so that no one hears. Swallow your pride and slow those exercises down until your brain can figure what the notes are and get your fingers to play them. Speed is not your friend or your goal in Session 4. Getting your fingers to cooperate with what your brain is telling them to do is the goal.

3) Play as much different music as possible. I recommend several resources in Session 4. I encourage you to get those. It's tremendously boring working through the same 3 exercises. Your brain needs to get practice in solving these problems in a variety of settings.

I look forward to hearing a few weeks from now how you made it through Session 4.

You've got a whole musical life ahead of you. Don't let your dreams of playing guitar better and understanding music better be stopped here at Session 4.

Keep going. You'll get there. You're doing it. You are doing the hard, frustrating work of becoming a better guitar player. This is how it is done - one practice session at a time - one exercise at a time.


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Stage Fright

Here are some simple tips I use to help overcome stage fright.

1) Get Familiar with the Playing Experience. Put yourself in performing situations – no matter how small or insignificant – as much as you can. For me, much of the “panic” that comes in these moments finds traction because it is an unfamiliar situation. I find that if I can play in that situation more than once the stage fright seems to diminish with the more familiar I get with the experience. You may be completely frozen to play at your local jam session but try to come right back again the next week and chances are you’ll find it will go much better for you.

2) Warm Up in the Same Place as the Performance. If possible, it helps me a great deal to get to the event very early and get a few moments on the stage, or wherever you will be playing, to get my guitar out and play a while. Just getting used to the feel and sound of the room takes a lot of these stress-inducing unknowns out of the equation. And the more time I get to be in the playing environment the more my nerves calm down. Leaving plenty of time to hang out before the gig acclimating to the environment seems to help.

3) Know Your Material Completely. Short-term memory is the first thing to go out the window when you’re nervous. Make sure you can play the song effortlessly. Be well practiced on the song you want to perform. You want to know the song so well you could play it in your sleep because in the heat of battle of performing your brain is going to have enough to deal with trying to manage the situation. You don’t want to have to rely on it to remember some tricky ending of the song that you worked out minutes before you perform.

Remember, this is just guitar playing and you don’t need to be perfect. At the Guitar Gathering conference a few weeks ago Musicians Hall of Fame guitarist Will McFarlane said “Its just guitar playing, its not like I’m a doctor and if I mess up some guy never walks again.”

Stage fright is a common experience that we all face. Use these simple tips to help you get back to enjoying making music



Here is a wonderful article I came across about our brains and playing music.

Here is the original link...

Here it is...

While it is known that practicing music repeatedly changes the organization of the brain, it is not clear if these changes can correlate musical abilities with non-musical abilities. The study of 70 older participants, with different musical experience over their lifetimes, provides a connection between musical activity and mental balance in old age. “The results of this preliminary study revealed that participants with at least 10 years of musical experience (high activity musicians) had better performance in nonverbal memory, naming, and executive processes in advanced age relative to non-musicians.”

Changing one’s lifestyle may postpone the onset of problems connected with old age, like Alzheimer’s disease. These diseases cause cognitive changes like loss of memory, reasoning, and perception. Adequate rest and physical exercise as well as a lifelong habit of stimulating the mind are favorable for clear thinking in old age. Musical activities, undertaken throughout the lifetime, have an impact on one’s mental health during old age. This has been studied in this current research work. Practicing music for a number of years brings about certain changes in brain organization. Comparing the lucidity in old age of those pursued music related activities and those who didn’t may help to understand the effect of the music-related reorganization of brain on successful aging.

* Seventy healthy participants, aged between 60 and 83, were divided into three groups, based on their degree of involvement in musical activities, over their lifetimes.
* The three groups were similar in average age, education, handedness, sex ratio, and physical exercise habits.
* The first group, namely the non-musicians, never received any formal musical training. The second group, the low activity musicians, had one to nine years of training. The third, the high activity musicians, trained for more than 10 years and played regularly afterward.
* All were tested for brain strengths such as memory, attention, and language prowess, using standardized tests. Their mastery on the use of language, ability to remember, and ability to express oneself were tested.

* Verbal intellectual ability and learning, as well as recall of verbal information, were found to be similar across the three groups.
* The high activity musicians were significantly better at performing tasks based on visual inputs.
* Although language prowess seemed to be similar across the groups, the high activity musicians’ memory for words was significantly better than that of non-musicians.
* The age at which musical training started affected visual memory, while the number of years of training affected non-verbal memory.

Shortcomings/Next steps
High activity musicians have a better chance of retaining certain mental abilities in old age; however, preexisting factors that may affect their choices have not been considered in this study. Social influences like motivation should be considered in future studies. Effects of musical training on verbal memory need to be analyzed further, by considering changes in brain organization that set in with age. A study on whether the effects of music are generalized or whether they affect only specific parts of the brain could also be undertaken.

Engaging in musical activity for most of one’s lifetime significantly helps remember names, and enhances nonverbal memory, the ability to work based on what one sees, and mental agility during old age. The habit of physical exercise, in addition to musical involvement, further adds to mental lucidity in old age. Starting musical training early and continuing it for several years have a favorable effect on metal abilities during old age. Musical training also seems to enhance verbal prowess and the general IQ of a person, although it is possible that people with higher IQ tend to pursue music more seriously. It is advisable to think about our lifestyles and change them accordingly to have a better chance at a healthy, clear-headed old age.


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The New 2011 Learn and Master Song Hit List

I fully realize that we are not going to have everyone's favorite songs on the song list. This was never the goal from the beginning - I realized immediately this was a battle that is impossible to win so I arranged the course from a "learning guitar skills through classic songs" perspective not a "learn this specific song" perspective.

Legacy worked through a specific song publisher so I was limited to their song catalog. So from the very beginning I was limited on the songs I was able to choose. I was handed a list of 500 songs or so from this publisher and I had to pick the songs from there.

Tom is exactly correct, there were a couple of big artists' libraries that I was initially very excited about that in the end wouldn't allow us to use their material. I'm hesitant to go into the "fish that got away" artists and songs but suffice it to say if I was a cussing man, like I used to be, I would have let a few fly the day I found out about that. Rest assured, I labored a great deal over trying to pull the best songs out of the limitations we were under - the best songs musically and the best songs educationally.

This project is for the guy who is going through the Learn & Master Guitar Course and wants other "more familiar" songs to work on the skills applicable to the session he is on. In other words "I'm so bored learning "Jingle Bells", can't we learn songs that I know?" This Song Hits course is a resounding YES to that concern.

Yes, very deliberately, the songs are going to be simplified and arranged specifically to coordinate with the session that you are on.

Fabian, you specifically mention "Hit Me With Your Best Shot" and "You Got It" being in the first session. For those two songs I teach an "Easy Version" and a "Full Version".

The Easy Version corresponds to what a Session 1 learner would know. So they have a very simplified version of the melody of the chorus of the song written in TAB, and 3 note chords above it. This would be attainable by a Session 1 learner.

But I also include the Full Version of the song which is the entire song (Intros, Verses, Chorus etc) with the complete melody and words written out with the guitar part written out as well in the lower staff including the rhythms and chords used in the original version of the song. I even wrote and tabbed out the entire guitar solo for the song "Hit Me With Your Best Shot" as played on the original recording. (Roughly about a Session 19 level of playing.) I painstakingly made sure that what I notated out and Tabbed is exactly what the original guitar played.

So, the answer is yes - I did write out the songs according to what level you are corresponding to in the main guitar course. But, I also wrote out the full version on some of the earlier songs so that folks would get the instruction on what the full version of the song is doing.

I tried to give something to both sets of learners. I wanted the Session 1 learner to have something that they could work on but I also wanted the more advanced learner who really wanted to learn the song "Hit Me With Your Best Shot" as they have heard it to have something that they can work on as well.

I have literally nothing to do with that.

Granted, there have been a few problems of the outworking of the pre-sales for this course. There are a lot of people concerned about that here in the Legacy office. Thankfully, I am not one of them. When you pop in the DVD and start watching then you are on my turf. How it's marketed, when the pre-sales are, and for how much, and what the website looks like are all areas that I have little to no influence on.

I hope that gives a little more insight to the course.

I'm excited about getting it into your hands and having you all learn to play guitar through the songs in it.


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As far as practicing goes... it's about quality not quantity.
I am not impressed by the person who says that they practice 4 hours a day. My professional experience has shown me that the person practicing 4 hours a day as a beginner probably wont even make it to become an intermediate player.

Yes, you need to practice.

Yes, everyone should probably devote more time to their learning in order to get increasing results.

BUT, as a self-guided beginner it's much more important HOW you practice than HOW MUCH you practice.

Think of it this way.

It's not about counting minutes, it's about making your minutes count.

I fully agree about practicing at a time where your brain is fresh and "making connections". This is very important.

You should come away from your practice time... tired, and mentally exhausted.
You want to be working at the very edges of your ability. In order to do this you need to be very focused. And you can only stay in this level of focus for about 3 hours at a time before your brain starts oozing from your ears.

Focused, deliberate practice at the edge of your abilities with a laser-like attention to correcting your mistakes is the type of practice that yields profound results.

Here's an analogy. You, as the learner, are like a stumbling baby trying to walk.

STOP!!!!! Think about that.

A baby is intently focused on what they are trying to do - what they are trying to accomplish.

They stumble and are keenly aware of the stumbling and its distance from the walking that they want to do.

They are neither discouraged or surprised when they stumble. It doesn't distract them from their goal of walking.

They have a vision in their minds of exactly what they want to do and are constantly measuring themselves and their ability to this mental image.

It's this kind of mental focus that yields faster and more deep results when you practice.

Let me say this again...
You, as the learner, need to have the mindset of a stumbling baby trying to walk. When your practice times take on this level of focus then great results will happen in a short amount of time.


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This was actually a response in another thread but I wanted to repost it here.

As long as we're discussing teaching philosophy let me put on my philosophers hat and chime in. These are some thoughts that have been rolling around in my head for a while.

There is no shortage of tips, tricks, youtube videos, and the like for guitar instruction - each gving a piece or a particular players view on a very specific topic. What is lacking is the "path". There is no way to collect the information from its variety of sources, apply it across a wide variety of musical settings and incorporate it into your playing.

We have become musical "hoarders", with little scraps of information cluttering our musical house - a song intro here, a blues lick there, a few chord forms over there. All scribbled down in our musical minds with the best of intentions and then, for lack of a better place to put it, stuffed in our proverbial guitar case.

People need the path. The path of systematizing the information IS the important part, otherwise all of the other disorganized information is musically useless to the learner.

The mountain climber at the bottom of the mountain knows what needs to be done. And there are a million ways to get to the top - some easier and some harder. What he needs is the sherpa guide to come alongside and say "Start here. Then go up to that point and I'll tell you where to step next when you get there."

Blurting out information is the easy part of teaching. Way too many teachers (musical and otherwise) think their responsibility is to spew out information all over their students and then its the students job to take it all, assimilate it, and apply it. WRONG. WRONG. WRONG. If you've ever sat, completely lost, in a college lecture hall while a teacher endlessly spews out information with no concern for the students learning then you know exactly what I'm talking about. Teaching by information only is lazy teaching.

The great basketball coach John Wooden said "You have not taught until they have learned."

The teacher's responsibility isn't to pour out information. The teacher's responsibility is to make sure the student has learned the material. When the studen't understanding is your ultimate goal, then you change drastically how you teach.

Teaching is hard work. It is figuring out which key will open a particular students understanding. It takes trial and error, endless refinement of the order and flow of information, and the ability to assess and anticipate the problems that the learner will encounter.

A coach doesn't just toss the rulebook at the players and then sit on the sidelines. A coach is running along side the player as they are practicing, speaking to them in their ear right at the moment of decision saying "Don't look here, look there. Recieve the ball like this, not like that. Pay attention to this. Wait for it... now Go, Go, Go". The information is the easy part, it's the coaching that takes great skill to take a learner from one point in their development to a completely different place.

There's no getting around it. If all you do is watch YouTube Guitar Tip videos then you'll be constantly frustrated at why, even though you have the information, you can't make it sound like the guy in the video. The difference is the three months of practice that it takes to master the skill.

I love the Extreme Makeover weight loss shows. There was even a new one a few months back where they would take an incredibly overweight person and get them all the way to the big reveal, clapping moment with their families. It was actually a year's worth of this person's life compressed into one hour - from the fat slob eating a cake on the couch to the crisp, trim athlete stepping out from behind the curtain to the cheers of their families. You never saw the hundreds of days of sweat and struggle. The tears, the "I can't do it anymore", the " "who cares about this anyway", the times where the trainer is screaming into the sweaty face of the person saying "Quitting is easy. If you really want to change, you've got to fight for it."

When you bleach out the "hard work" from the becoming a musician process, it doesn't work. Learners end up being confused at why things aren't coming easy for them.

We've sold a gazillion courses. And, more times than I can remember, I have sat in my chair in the video studio with the director counting down "3...2...1... action" and I think to myself "Don't worry about the thousands of people who are going to be watching this. Don't worry about them. Talk to the one person who is sitting there with their guitar trying to learn. Help that person. Don't worry about the thousands of other on-lookers."

As all of you know, learning is a profoundly personal process. Yes, it is the acquisition of information and skill. But it is also the very personal struggle to become something that you've always wanted to be - doing something that you (in the deepest part of you) truly wants to do for you, not for someone else. It's getting up and practicing when you would rather be doing something else. But you practice anyway because, deep inside of yourself, you want to become a musician. Learning is personal and my job as the instructor is to relate to you in that way.

One of my marketing professors in college said this quote that has bothered me ever since... "Once you can fake sincerity, the rest is easy."

What a wretched way to view interacting with people.

I was talking with Greg Voros on the back dock of Gruhn's guitars several years ago and he was telling me something about how this or that person stands out in their work because they actually care about what they do or, as Greg so eloquently put it, they "Give A darn" (G.A.D).

Phony-ness is so prevelant in our worlds that when someone, even in the smallest of things, actually let's you know that they actually care about what's going on with you, it's shocking to most of us.

It's much easier to create a guitar course by just figuring out a few licks, turning on the camera, tossing out some information, cutting a few problematic production corners like creating a book or "on-screen" graphics, and releasing it. Most people will still buy it (at least the first time) so why bother with doing more. The only person that will know that we cut this or that corner will be the poor guy sitting there with his guitar trying to follow along.

The G.A.D. factor makes all of the difference in the world, in every decision that is made, in the way the product is produced and marketed.

The teacher doesn't have to be the greatest guitar player on the planet.

But if the teacher is going to be long-term effective they have to care deeply about the end-result of their teaching to the learner, in other words, they have to "give a darn" because it affects a thousand decisions every day.

So, there are some of the dusty thoughts in my guitar teachers mind.

You all are the best students in the world and I'm honored with the humbling responsibility to help you out any way that I can. We'll both keep learning together and hopefully make a little music on the way.


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There are quite a few ways to tackle identifying chords in songs... some more helpful than others. Let's have a look at a few of them.
Using Bass Notes
Listening for bass notes is, to me, the easiest way to identify chords. Since the role of the bass in pop in rock music is generally to lay down the foundation of the music, and play the root (primary note) of most chords, all the information we need to identify chords can often be found in the bass part.

Try this:
• pick a song that sounds relatively simple to play - one that doesn't move too quickly, and uses a basic strummed guitar part.
• now, listen to the guitar part, and identify when the chords are changing in the song.
• try to identify the bass part. The bass part in pop and rock music usually contains single notes, and is the lowest sounding instrument in the band.
• using your guitar, try and identify what note the bassist plays when the guitar chord changes. Slide your finger up the sixth string of your guitar, and try every note, until you find one that sounds like the recording.
• identify that note (eg. eighth fret on sixth string is a C)
• try playing different types of C chords (Cmajor, Cminor, C7, etc) at that point in the song
• when you find the right chord, move on to the next chord change
This is a pretty solid method of figuring out songs, although several problems arise. Sometimes, bass players don't play the root note of the chord... for example, they may play the note E, when the chord is actually Cmajor. In time, you'll learn to identify these sounds immediately, but in the beginning, these sort of situations will certainly cause you some anguish. Suck it up!
Identifying Open Strings
This technique is particularly handy when you have tried the bass note method of figuring out a chord, and failed miserably. Hope you've been honing your skills at hearing open strings ringing, because it comes in handy here too!
The concept is simple: listen for any open strings ringing in the recording, then find those same strings on your guitar. Now, rack your brain to remember all the chords you know that use those open strings, and try all of them, until you've found the proper chord. For example, if you were able to detect the open G and B strings ringing in the guitar part you were listening to, the chord could be an open G major chord, or an open E minor chord (actually, it could be a whole lot of chords, but we're keeping it simple here!) You would then try both chords, to see which one sounded correct.
Note by Note Method
This is admittedly a laborious method of figuring out chords, but sometimes, it's a necessary evil. The concept is simple... simply listen to the chord on the recording again and again, picking out any notes you can hear, and trying to replicate them on guitar. If you're lucky, after you get a couple notes, you'll recognize the chord. Sometimes, however, you just won't know the chord at all, so you have to put it together one note at a time. This can be extremely frustrating, but hey, no one promised this would be easy! And have faith that, while you're working, you're also training your ear, so next time, it will be a little easier.
With just a little bit of knowledge, we can also make it mucheasier to anticipate what the chord *could* be, without even picking up a guitar to try and figure it out. We'll finish up by using basic theory to help figure out songs.
The phrase "music theory" strikes terror into the hearts of many amateur musicians, and budding musicians the world over. Don't let those words scare you... while many think music theory is nothing but a bunch of dry, boring rules, the truth is, knowing some music theory can make your job as a guitarist much easier. Let's have a look at how knowing some theory can make figuring out songs much easier.
Chords in a Key
Let's get some straight facts out of the way first. There are 12 major keys, one for every letter of the musical alphabet (eg. Amajor, Bbmajor, Bmajor, Cmajor, etc.) Similarly, there are 12 minor keys (eg. Aminor, Bbminor, Bminor, etc.) A set of chords belongs to each of these keys. A song doesn't have to remain in one key... in fact, jazz and classical music very rarely stays in one key.
Now, the good news. Almost all pop, country, rock, and blues music stays in one key throughout. Additionally, most of the music in these styles are written in the key of Cmajor, Dmajor, Gmajor, Amajor, Eminor, or Aminor. Why, you ask? Because the chords in these keys are easier to play on guitar, so songwriters tend to stick with them. Who wants to write a song in Dbmajor, and play a bunch of Db, Gb, and Ab chords when you could instead write the song in Dmajor and play D, G, and A?
Explaining the chords in the following chart goes way beyond the scope of this article. Instead, attempt to do the following:
• find out which key the song you're trying to figure out is in
• Reference the below chart for that key, and see what chords are available (the key is highlighted in black - all chords beside it are the chords available in that key).
• Experiment with the available chords in that key, until you find the correct one
I ii iii IV V vi vii bVII *
C Dm Em F G Am Bdim Bb
D Em F#m G A Bm C#dim C
E F#m G#m A B C#m D#dim D
F Gm Am Bb C Dm Edim Eb
G Am Bm C D Em F#dim F
A Bm C#m D E F#m G#dim G
* this chord doesn't actually belong in the key, but is very commonly used
i ii III iv v or V VI VII
Am Bdim C Dm Em or E F G
Dm Edim F Gm Am or A Bb C
Em F#dim G Am Bm or B C D

I can hear many of you asking "but.. how do I figure out what key the song is in?" Several ways... you could look at a couple chords in the song you know, look in the chart above, and see which key has those chords in it. Another simpler, very inaccurate method of guessing which key a song is in, is to assume the first chord in the song is the correct key. So, if the first chord in the song is an Eminor, you would guess that the song is in Eminor. While there is absolutely no theoretical reason for this to be true, most pop/rock music is rather simple, so it tends to be true more often than not.
So there you have it... a good basis for learning to figure out songs on your own. It will be a slow going process at first, but if you try a little each day, I think you'll find that within a few weeks, you'll have learned a whole lot. For those interested in learning more about music theory, I can't recommend the excellent Mark Levine's excellent Jazz Theory Book highly enough. The book begins at a rudimentary level, and provides as much music theory as most people would care to know.




The package delivered may be different than the one your receive, standard that things change over time.

but since I have a few minutes spare I'll type it for you...

This course is broken into twenty "Session". Each Session builds upon the previous one, so it's generally best to follow them in order.
Both guitar and musical concepts are introduced in a simple logical sequence.

Practice Time:
For most students, twenty to thirty minutes of practice time five days a week is a good pace.
Student will typically spend tow to three weeks on each Session before they are ready to move on.
You will find an "Estimated Time to Learn" printed in your Lesson Book at the start of each new Session.
These are estimates only and will vary widely.
Work at your own pace.

The DVD's
On the DVDs, each Session will have an extensive instruction time followed by a shorter workshop time.
The concepts are first explained in the instruction time, and then you practice them in the workshop.
It is not necessary to watch the instruction portion repeatedly each day.
Once you have the concepts down, go straight to the workshop for your practice times.

The Workshop Time
The workshop portion of each Session is meant to be used during your daily practice time.
We will cover together the concepts discussed.
Generally the workshop times will be 10-15 minutes in length and will practice the main points of the session.
When you have a few minutes and are ready to practice, turn on the workshop and we will go over the material together, starting slowly and gradually progressing to where you need to be before moving on to the next section.

The Lesson Book
Your Lesson Book contains all of the songs, examples and exercises that appear on the DVD's.
Follow along in the book as you watch the DVDs, take notes in it, and use it any time you don't want to practice in front of the television.
You will also use it when practicing with the Jan Along CDs.

Jam Along CDs:
This is the fun part! The Jam Along CDs contain recordings of all the songs you will be learning in this course.
Practice by playing along with the guitar part.
You will notice that the guitar has been recorded in the left channel, so you can turn it down by adjusting the balance on your stereo.
Once you do, you'll be "Jamming Along" with the band all on your own!


Members-Only Website:
More resources, bonus exercises and a discussion board for posting questions is available to you at w w w .. forum changed names [dot] com here.
Don't miss this tremendous new resource available to you at no cost.

And Finally....
A word of encouragement. You may have realized that it is likely to take a full year to get through all of these Sessions.
That probably seems like a long time, but keep this in mind:
You will become a guitar player long before you actually finish this course. You will be playing your first songs within a few weeks.
A few weeks more and you'll have some basic chords.
Within a few months, you'll be able to play most of the songs you hear on the radio.

The "mastery" part of the Learn and Master Guitar does take a bit longer, but by then you will probably be having so much fun that the time won't matter.
Of course, you may also choose not to go much beyond the basics. That's ok, too.
Guitar "master" may or may not be your goal.
Whatever your destination is, focus on enjoying the process. Take one step at a time, and above all else.
Have fun with it.

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"..have come across to things I don't understand. ...I see often diminished 7th but thinking back to session 9 I thought only the 4th, 5th and octave (perfect intervals) can be diminished and not the 2, 3, 6, 7th (Major intervals) which I thought could only be minored?"

The short answer: The word "diminished" in the chord name is referring to the type of triad, not the interval.

The long answer: Chord names can get a bit confusing. Chord names generally have THREE parts - the ROOT, the TRIAD TYPE, and the EMBELLISHMENT.

For example in the chord Cm7 (C minor seventh),
- "C" is the Root
- "m" is short for "minor" and that tells you that it is a minor triad
- "7" tells you that to add the flatted 7th step of the scale (remember the flatted seventh rule) to the minor triad.
(Remember, in a chord name a "7" (when it appears by itself) is always a flatted seventh unless it specifically says "major7")

So, the "diminished" in the chord name is referring to the type of triad needed not the specfic interval of a seventh. So, the chord in question would be built on a 1-b3-b5. Now, let's go on to the next question...

in the song "The Godfather" you have unknowingly stumbled across a rather complex harmonic concept that is going to take a moment to explain.

The short answer: The formula for a (half) diminished 7th chord is 1-b3-b5-b7.
(You'll notice that I assumed a half-diminished chord was needed instead of a fully diminished chord even though the chord name doesn't specify it.)

The long answer: There are two types of diminished seventh chords - HALF-DIMINISHED and FULLY DIMINISHED. (Learn & Master Guitar Lesson Book pg. 90)

A HALF-DIMINISHED chord is 1-b3-b5-b7. (Basically, a diminished triad, with a flatted seventh added)

A FULLY DIMINISHED chord is 1-b3-b5-bb7. (A diminished triad with a double flatted seventh added)

So, why did I assume that the chord in question was a half-diminished when the chord name didn't specify it?
This brings us to question 3 about chord functions in minor keys so let's look at that first.


The short answer:
Because in Em, the B7 chord functions as a leading chord called a "dominant 7th" chord and those tend to always be major chords rather than minor chords.

The Long Answer:

"I wanted to find the chords to play it in Em, so I found out that Em is the relative minor of G".

Yes it is, BUT while the key signature is the same between Em and G there is one BIG difference between chords in the key of Em and chords in the key of G.
Here it is... the 5 chord (V) in the key of Em is a B7.

"So finding this out I came up with these chords for the key of Em, Em, F# (this one confused me), G, Am, Bm, C, D. I can now play the chords to the Godfather the only problem is the Bm didn't fit into the chords and I discovered that B7 did."

You are exactly correct!
The reason B7 sounded correct and Bm didn't is because the B7 was "functioning" as the 5 (V) chord, the dominant seventh chord, in the key of Em.
And V chords always lead to I chords (whether they are major or minor, it doesn't matter.)

For example, in the key of G major the five chord is a D7 and so you'll see a lot of D7-G progressions.

But, in the key of Em, the five chord is a B7, because the five chord is leading back to the minor one, so you'll see a lot of B7-Em progressions.

Five (V) chords are always a major triad and a flatted seventh.

I apologize for the in-depth answer.
This may all be way over your head where you are at currently in Session 9.
You've stumbled upon a pretty complex harmonic concept that isn't going to make sense until you have learned a few more musical concepts.

So, the chords in a minor key are adjusted a bit from their pure relative key counterparts to accomodate for this B7 problem.

The chord in the key of Em would be...
Em (E-G-B )
F#diminished (F#-A-C)
G (G-B-D)
Am (A-C-E)
B7 (B-D#-F#-A)
C (C-E-G)
D (D-F#-A)


final question is...

"So please can you tell me why this is and whats going on with that F#..."

The short answer: In a minor key, the ii chord is customarily played as a half-diminished.

The long answer: I don't really know why this is musically or how it can be explained harmonically, but this is just how music has developed.

In a minor key, the ii chord tends to always be played as a half-diminished chord rather than a fully-diminished chord.

I think part of the reason may be that ii chords tend to move to V chords which tend to move to i chords. And in this ii-V-i progression a ii fully diminished chord just doesn't sound very good.

So, in the Godfather in Em, the ii chord would be F# half-diminished 7 which is F#-A-C#-E (1-b3-b5-b7)

I hope this clarifies some things.

Here are the things you need to remember from all of this.

1) In minor keys, the V chord is major.

2) In minor keys, the ii chord customarily is played as a half-diminished chord.


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Reason for Naming the Pentatonic Patterns the way I did:

Yes, you are absolutely correct. There doesn't seem to be a consensus on how to name the various pentatonic forms. The only reason I labeled my 1st form instead of, let's say the 5th form, is because the shape I am using for the 1st form is the one that everyone knows. So, I just called it the 1st form and went from there.

There is also confusion because of the major/minor root relationship.

Truthfully, when I'm playing I don't think of the patterns as "1st form", or "2nd form". (I had to teach them with names because there was no other way to convey the concept) But when I'm playing I relate all of the forms by the root and the other scale steps.

The main ideas with them is that...

There are 5 pentatonic forms that progress from one to the other in a specific order that cycles.

In other words, I can have the alphabet letters A-B-C-D-E, or I can write them C-D-E-A-B, or E-A-B-C-D but you can see that Cs are always after Bs and Es are after Ds. And after five letters it cycles back no matter where it starts in the pattern.

So, it really doesn't matter whether I call it the 1st form or not as long as you understand how they are fitting together and cycling.

Regarding the diagram, I just wrote it out how it made sense to me and how I visualized it on guitar. (And it never really made sense to me why on a diagram people would put the 1st string on top and the 6th string on bottom.)

I hope this helps.

I will try to address this during the live lesson for next week (Feb 21, 2012). Perhaps I can clarify it a bit more then.



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When to use a "Lick"

THE SHORT ANSWER: A lick's "usability" depends significantly on the musical context. What may work in one setting may sound awful in another setting.

In your "notes are letters, licks are words" analogy, let me adjust something.

Notes are letters, but licks are more like phrases than words. A word generally has one specific meaning but a phrase is much more dependant on context. And that's how it is with licks.

For example, the phrase "Hey, buddy, you stink!!" may mean: "You don't smell very good." but it also could mean that "you're guitar playing needs some work."

That's how it is with licks.

For example, I could play a classic Stevie Ray Vaughn lick on my blues gig and people go wild. But I could also play the identical lick over the identical chords the next night at my jazz gig and get strange looks from everyone.

I wish a certain set of licks would be guaranteed to be great in any setting but it doesn't work that way - you've got to listen and use your ear as to what might work. That's why books like "100 Great Blues Licks" can only take you so far - you still have to apply those and adjust them to fit into a variety of musical settings.


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How to learn the notes above the first position

It sounds like you are doing exactly what I would suggest which is play the songs and exercises for Sessions 1-4 in the 5th, 7th, and 10th position. Already knowing the melody will help even more to make the connections with the notes and their placements within those positions.

Then try making up a simple melody and play it in the open, 3rd, 5th, 7th and 10th positions. These are all great exercises for ear training and learning your notes.

- Steve


Too many view the practice room as a prison - a place of endless, fruitless frustration and toil. It's seen as a place to be avoided at all costs - a place where your inadequacies are placed in the spotlight. Any distraction is readily embraced to divert us from the cruel, unforgiving mirror of our frail abilities found in the practice room.

Many musicians are enslaved to this view of the practice room. If you are in this unfortunate mindset, let me offer you a small alternative view of the practice room universe.

With a different perspective your practice room can move from a prison to become a sanctuary - a place where you quietly go to remember who you are, what you love, and who you want to become.

Practicing, and the daily "bettering" of your skills (and thus yourself) yields tremendous benefits beyond the specific skills that you are working on.

The time you spend with your instrument is special - it's a time where you put away the other cares of the day and focus entirely on something that YOU want to do.

Practicing is something that you do for you - not anyone else. So many of the hours in our days are invested in things for other people but practicing is something you do completely for yourself.

Learning is valuable - it is a sacred investment of your time purely for your own benefit and enjoyment.

The practice room is a place of trials and triumphs, a place where you are challenged mentally and physically, tested to the depths of your understanding and ability. And a place that on some very special days you walk out of as a conquerer.

The practice room is a place where your dream of making music is forged - like a blacksmith working with steel - a place of heat, sweat, and where every inch of progress is not "cheap" but is earned through determined effort.

In the end, people may walk past and say to you "Wow, you have really improved, you must just have a gift." But in your heart you know that any ability you have was not "dropped upon you" from the sky cheaply but was forged with great effort and determination in one place - the practice room.

Many people dream of being a musician - some for years. But there is only one door that those that truly become musicians walk out of... the practice room.

- Steve



Yes, that's him!!!! He died several years back and I'm sure he hated it. He was one of the most "full of life" people I've ever met. He was the only guitar teacher I ever had drop me. I was young and stupid - a "full of myself all-state guitarist" in high school who was bored stiff by this kind old man who tried to teach me a style of playing that seemed way too outdated and un-hip. What I would give for a few more lessons from this living jazz legend now.

He told me "Why don't you come back when you have a bit more time to devote to the lessons." I walked out of his home and thought "how rude" but that experience and my time with him taught me several life lessons...

LIFE LESSON #1: Don't think more highly of yourself than you should. Learn from everyone you can.
I realized he was right to drop me. It was a waste of his time and mine.  I was faking my way through his lessons. I thought "what can this old guy teach me". Foolish.

LIFE LESSON #2: Don't rely on anyone to spoon feed you instruction. It's your job to reach out and dig for it - to claw it out.
When I had lessons with him he never wrote anything down. So, it was all by memory and by the time I got home from the lesson I could remember little of what he taught me. (Ever had that happen...)Eventually, I started recording his lessons, but I still didn't take the time needed to grasp the concepts, and I wrote little down. Foolish.

Most teachers in your life will give you little help in the process of learning. It's the student's job to dig for the learning - sometimes the teacher may help in this endeavor, sometimes not. I cannot blame the teacher for my lack of progress just because the teacher is making me dig for it. It's in the digging that you learn the most.

LIFE LESSON #3: Chords can mean much more than the sum of their notes.

Jack taught me that chords were not just for accompanying but that they can be used to harmonize a melody. He also taught me that a chord can function one way in one harmony and another way in another harmonic situation. I was used to analyzing chords as a slice of time - i.e. you look at what notes are in the chord and you can tell how they are functioning. Jack taught me to look at chords in context of the tune.

For example, sure a G-B-D-F is a G7. But looking at the function of the chord can tell me that a G7 is the V chord leading me to a C - AND that that G7 can be preceded by a Dm, AND since the G7 is functioning as a V chord then I can alter it a variety of different ways and it will still make musical sense.

Jack also taught me that a chord can be a chord without a root. This was a mind-blowing concept to this long-haired teenage jazz player.

For example, the chord B-D-F-A-E seems like a meaningless grouping of notes. If I looked at it on the surface I might come up with some non-sensical analysis as a Bm7sus(b5) ????

It was Jack that taught me that a B-D-F-A-E is a perfect G13th - just without the G. And who needs the root anyway if the chord progression clearly indicates the chords function. This opened up a world of thought to me.

Anyway, there is only one tune and a handful of licks, and a few key pieces of musical knowledge I can remember from those lessons with Jack. This is through no fault of Jack. I look back on that part of my learning and I think I was so clueless to what this man could teach me. He was a brilliant player and one of the best jazz guitarists of his day playing with world class orchestras and television bands. All I could see was an old man, in a small house on the wrong side of town.

He died some years later, only remembering me as a clueless teenager who didn't have time for his lessons. Never knowing the impact he had on me and now on you.

- Steve


How not to dig into the strings too hard while strumming




1) Relax your wrist.  As you speed up your strumming you need to relax your wrist so that it doesn't become too stiff.


2) Use a thinner pick.  When you're doing a lot of strumming a thick pick causes you to dig in too much and will eventually cause too much resistance against the strings.  Thinner picks work better.


3) Hold pick securely but with some flexibility.  I realize that this sounds like a contradiction.  And I guess it is in some sort of way, but in my mind this is what I do.  I hold the pick firmly enough so that I have a good grip with strumming aggressively BUT I also am, ever so slightly, loosening the grip on the pick occasionally so that it has a little bit of give in it.  I'm still in control but, giving the pick some flexibility when needed by adjusting my grip on the pick helps.


4) Don't use too heavy of strings.  Use light strings when you are doing a lot of strumming.  It will save your arm. Stiff strings, like a stiff pick, just adds resistance which is unhelpful when strumming for long periods of time.


I hope this helps.


- Steve 



Here's my official words of advice from decades of playing experience and teaching experience.


Are you ready?  Lean in so you can get a good look at it...

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Learn from me, learn from your neighbor down the street, learn from the good folks over at Jam Play and anywhere else you can find to learn.


Not one course will have it all.  (Despite what our very own "over the top" marketing claims say about the course.  More than once I have had heated conversations about the educational ridiculousness of "everything you need to become a guitar master in one box" claims.)


You're going to need every bit of wisdom and insight that you can get from any source you can to get you to be the player you want to be.  


The biggest factor in your guitar education is not my approach, or someone else's approach, but is you - your dogged determination to learn.  




Learn from everywhere you can find to learn from. 


Let me also say one more thing.  


Learning is a verb - an action - an action that is taken on by the student.  The teacher can only present the information.  The responsibility is on the learner to reach out and grab that information, work on it with determination, and ultimately benefit from it.


So, REACH, and LEARN!  

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