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.
My friends we are facing an epidemic! It’s brutal some would say unnerving!
If you play guitar with a pick, you know what I’m talking about. You go to your local guitar store drop a few bucks and, in theory, have enough picks to last you for awhile.
You know you bought a few of the cool ones with skull designs on them, a few heavy ones for fast picking and that one thin one for strumming some folk songs.
Get home and it’s time for a practice session. You start jamming then a distraction, maybe the doorbell rings. You put your new skull pick down in a precise spot on the coffee table so you remember exactly where you left it so you don’t lose it. You dispatch the salesman at the door only to return to your rockin’ out and cue the theme from “Psycho” as you look down and that shiny new pick is gone.
“What the heck!?, I left it right there on the coffee table…right there in the corner!” Too late! …It’s gone…like a swimmer in “Jaws”, like a camper in Mike Myers’ neck of the woods, like one of Sigourney Weaver’s buddies in “Alien.”
Get a glass of water…Bam, another one gone! Go to the bathroom…ChaChing, your thin pick is gone! Picks disappear like crazy. Where do they go? It doesn’t make any sense.
Over the years I’ve come to one conclusion. There are Pick Gremlins amongst us. It doesn’t matter where you live or how careful you are with your picks they are gonna disappear on you. You can even check your pockets and the laundry, but, they’re gone! It’s the pick gremlins no other possibility.
For those of you who play guitar you KNOW what I’m talking about. For those that don’t…well you probably think all guitarists are nuts anyways.
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!
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!
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.
A note on setting up a good practicing atmosphere.
Tonight I’ve been working on a few things: practicing music, writing music, setting up my website, working some blog ideas, browsing the internet, researching some music.
Believe it or not I have been getting a lot of quality production in ALL these areas. Herein lies the function of my dysfunction-I get bored easy. When I get bored my mind wanders and I get sidetracked. However, if I set myself up in a good chair for playing guitar, a computer nearby, my phone nearby, the TV on etc,. when my mind wanders it locks onto another project I need to focus on.
Even as a kid I remember doing this. I would have my stereo cranking down the hall, cuz I wanted to hear music, the TV on to keep my mind busy, some homework cause I had to and a guitar in my hand because I wanted to. Hearing the music would give me inspiration, watching TV would give my mind a break and playing guitar was my active focus and the homework got done as I’d take breathers from practicing. I remember this driving my parents nuts sorry mom & dad!
Of course I would never recommend that my students play in front of the TV. Well actually I have recommended it at times for students to keep them focused as it does for me. In all seriousness there are times that complete and utter focus is needed. When I was getting ready for my college recitals there were times I practiced up to 10 hours a day. Most of this time was spent in quiet solitude, focused without all the ‘distractions.’
So a note to my student’s parents perhaps knowing your child’s work and focus habits you can decide the best environment for your kids to practice. Does your child function better in a quiet room or with a few slight distractions, such as, TV on, siblings playing in the same room, you and your spouse conversing???? Maybe mute the TV during commercials over the course of an evening and let them practice in intervals. Sometimes sending your child to their room for a perfectly quiet, focused practice could be sentencing them to a boring solitary experience and never be afraid to comment, ask a few questions and praise your kids as they are working on their new skills. A more social experience may be what they need rather than a solitary ‘ideal’ working area. Then as their interest and skills grow they can develop their own ‘best’ habits.