Guitar Practicing Tips-Cheetos and Arpeggios Don’t Mix

Here is an obvious tip…wash your hands before you play your guitar!

Super obvious, but, I bet you don’t do it all the time!

If you are on a budget or a beginner that doesn’t know how to change your own strings…your strings need to last you for as long as possible. The more filth and muck that get on your strings the shorter life they have.

Cheetos Guitar FingersThe worst offenders are often kids. Guitar teachers will have surely seen this one…the occasional student walk into class with orange finger tips? Covered in gunky cheese powder from some kind of crackers…yuck! Or something even stickier or grosser…

For the rest of us it is just daily activities that keep our hands less clean than they seem to be…so scrub up and save a buck or two on strings!

Guitar Practicing Tips – Blues Scale in Major

Mike Slayen Studios Picks 2The blues scale is a great way for beginners to start improvising and an integral scale for all guitarists to have in their musical tool box. It is versatile and a bit forgiving in that it is basically a five note pentatonic scale with the added ‘blues’ note…the #4.

It’s easy to know which key to use the blues scale for a minor key. If you’re in A minor you play A minor blues, E minor-E blues…etc.

What is not so obvious is which major key to use the blues scale. Unless you are playing a straight ahead blues you can’t really use the same theory…G major= G blues, etc.

The answer lies with the ‘relative minor’ key. The relative minor is 3 half steps below the root of the major key. So the relative minor of C major is A minor. G major is E minor.

Once you know which relative minor you can rip away.

Here is a list of  Major keys and their relative minors commonly used in guitar.  A cheat sheet to get you started, but, you will NEED to know these intimately as part of your music theory repertoire!

Major key / Relative minor key(where to use your blues scale)

C/a

D/b

E/c#

F/d

G/e

A/f#

B/g#

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Guitar Practicing Tips – Know Your Open Strings

One of the first things you will want to learn as a guitarist is the letter names of each of the six strings.  Sure you can learn a bunch of tabs and chords and play songs but what about when you are jamming with your friends and they say something like, ‘your D string is out of tune?’ It sure would be embarrassing if you didn’t know which string they were talking about! I actually remember in college we had composer John Duarte pay us a visit. Some of the students who were playing his pieces were asked to perform for him in a master class setting. One student did a great performance of a Duarte piece. As is custom in a master class the composer/guest is to give some helpful critiques and suggestions. Mr. Duarte suggested the student play a certain passage on a different string to achieve a desired sound.

The student froze. In front of the composer, his teachers and an audience full of guitarists he froze. He couldn’t find the notes he needed and it was embarrassing for everyone there let alone the poor guy on stage.

DON’T LET THIS HAPPEN TO YOU! The first step you need to take is to know your open strings! Once you memorize these there are easy ways to find any note you want on the guitar. If you want to play bar and power chords knowing all the notes on the 5th and 6th string is essential and again it starts by knowing the open strings.
Here are two acronyms that are helpful to remember your open strings. Both were created by students of mine. One from over 15 years ago and one from a recent class.

Here are the open notes starting from the 6th string(thickest) to the first (thinnest)

E   A    D    B    G    B    E

Starting on the 6th(thick) string to the first(thin) string …by Patty

Eat    A    Darn    Good    Breakfast    Everyday

Starting on the first(thin) string to the  6th(thick) string …by Orlando

Easter    Bunny    Gets    Drunk    At    Easter

Don’t like these? Create you own version, whatever it takes to get you to memorize the open strings!

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Guitar Practicing Tips – A Secret to Changing Chords

For you beginners out there learning to play chords you are going to love this!

So you’re struggling making that dreaded change from C to G!(or any tough change). What are your options….practice over & over & over…best option! Practice slow and keep your rhythm…great option. Get frustrated and throw your guitar against the wall…not recommended, condoned or liable if you do try it!!!!

The not so secret is if you keep practicing you WILL get it!

The secret is there is a ‘cheating’ technique, although it is not cheating because guitarists do this all the time. Even arguably the greatest rock song of all time Stairway to Heaven employs this method.

Use a strum that ends in an eighth note, i.e., 1 2+ 3 4+ where the numbers are strummed down and the +(ands) are strummed up.

On the very last strum, the up stroke of beat 4, take your left hand off the neck and strum the open strings. Use this ‘free time’ to get to the next chord on rhythm for beat 1.

So the strum would go 1 2+ 3 4-(open strum), 1 2+ 3 4-(open strum)

Try it out it makes life much easier to change your chords and sounds stylistically correct.

Good luck and keep at it…it WILL come!

Guitar Practicing Tips- Keep it Out

Have you ever been walking around your house bored and say, ‘Ooooh I am gonna practice my guitar?’ You find that it is in the case, tucked in a room you never practice in and a full stack of junk on top. You know, just like your gym equipment….’Maybe I’ll practice later…’

It happens to the best of us!

One way to avoid this is to keep your guitar out of the case, of course you want to make sure you find a safe spot for it. Also keep it in a room you frequent so you can pick it up at anytime. If it is staring you in the face you are more likely to pick it up. If you pick it up you can get in a quick practice session. If you get in a quick session who knows it may turn into a full blown practice session.

Keep your guitar out, keep it protected and keep it where you can easily pick it up at anytime!

Keep practicing!!!

Guitar Practicing Tips – If You Can’t Practice Everyday…

What is the most important day to practice? Well everyday of course!

If you are taking lessons or attending classes, however, there is a best day. It is either the day of(afterwards) or the day after your lesson. When you learn something new you need to reinforce the concepts and muscle actions ASAP. If you wait until the next day and then you get an unexpected invite, then the next day the kids need you, the next day you already had plans….etc., by now half a week or more has passed. It is easy to forget exactly what you were supposed to be focusing on. If you miss a day after you already practiced your new stuff you have a better chance of remembering everything.

So that said jump on it as soon as you can!

Keep practicing!!!

Guitar Practicing Tips – Use it or Lose it!

Last night I was working on some music and decided to find some of the pieces I played for my college recitals. Found the folder and could not believe my eyes. There was SO much music. Music I haven’t played in years. Great music that I need to start playing again! Ponce, Villa-Lobos, Bach, Scarlatti just to name a few.

Excited to play these pieces again I dug into the thick stack of sheet music. I must of spent a few hours easily sight reading. Amazing that I forgot all about so many of these great works. Not only do I need to re-learn them but I completely forgot that I ever played many of them.

So here is the ‘Use it or Lose it’ lesson. As musicians we spend a lot of time on our craft, novices to professionals alike. No one wants all that time to go to waste! This is something I preach to my students. Work on new music as your main practice items but everyday work on some old music, as well! Play a few old pieces every time you practice and they will always stay in your head and fingers. It’s when a piece is tucked away, not seen or heard that musical atrophy sets in and although anytime a guitar is in your hands is a good thing, it is NO fun to have to re-learn something you already worked so hard on in the past!

Another advantage to practicing many songs weekly is to develop a full repertoire.  When friends and family know you play guitar they WILL ask you to play for them. So you get set to perform and realize you have only been working on a couple of pieces and they are in the development stage, not really ready for prime time. But if you have a handful of songs ready to go you will be the life of the party!

Keep practicing!

Guitar Practicing Tips – Put in an Extra 5!

When you are done with your practice session…put in 5 more minutes. These extra five minutes often turn into much more and can become very inspired. This might have something to do with the fact that you have done your regimented practice and are now playing for your own fulfillment on the instrument. Also it takes time for your brain and muscles to coordinate the way you want. It is no different than a workout. Those first 10 minutes of exercise can be rough before you hit your stride with endorphins being released, etc. Musicians and athletes both use the terms being locked in or being in the zone.

There have been countless times I was not having a great session and been ready to call it a day when I decided to add an extra 5. Some of my most productive sessions have come out of this practice.  I’ve written some of my best compositions and infused strong musicality when I have gotten into ‘the zone.’

Give it a try…if nothing else, you get an extra 5 minutes of practice!

Note to parents of guitar students: This may or may not work with young kids. Even if they love to play their guitar they are often driven to fill their duty i.e., a 20 minute practice session and can get frustrated over extending the time. Of course you know your kids and how they work best.

Let me know how this works for you!

Dude CD is DONE!!!!!

Started recording Aug 30, 2017 – Completed with CD’s in hand Dec. 21, 2017.

47 Days past the November 4, release date I expected…and lets just say ‘slightly’ over budget….

Lots of late nights…writing, arranging and practicing parts to prepare for studio sessions!

Was a blast!!!! I’m ready to start the next one!! Actually I’ve already been writing new music.

Thanks to everyone who supported the Indigogo Funding campaign/Pre-Sale of the project…it is GREATLY appreciated and was crucial to help complete the CD.

For those of you who ordered I will start sending them out shortly.

There is still plenty more for those of you who didn’t get in early.

Commemorative mugs still available too!

Also look for it soon online at iTunes, Amazon and all…for those of you clutter-less folks who don’t want hard copies.

Look for the CD Release party at Oceanside Ale Works in February or March…details to be supplied as they are set.

 

Stevie Ray Vaughan

UnknownOne of my favorite SRV stories is about his calluses. The story is that he practiced so much they would literally fall off. Well if you know how pink the skin is when you lose a blister you know how tender that skin is! No way you can play guitar on that…unless you are Stevie Ray Vaughan and you just super glue the loose calluses back on your fingertips. That is dedication to practicing for sure!

I always like to relay this to my beginning students as they work through the tender finger stage.

RIP “My ol friend!” SRV, August 27, 1990