Work those Ear Buds

I’m used to getting new students at varying levels of skill and experience. Totally green players who are new to the instrument have the benefit of no bad habits— the down side is they don’t have any good ones either. More experienced students are proficient in some areas, but their study is usually imbalanced— and they’re less eager to learning (or relearning) certain techniques since they already have an understanding of what committed practice means. Eventually, I try to uniformly raise multiple aspects of playing and theory of my students; making sure they know their scales and modes in various keys, which modes to use over diatonic chords, popular progressions that their favorite tunes are based on, etc. Even with self study, most experienced players can get to this point by themselves, and will start to observe instances of audiation… or the ability to instinctually (and accurately) guess which tone or chord might come next, even if they’ve never heard the tune they’re listening to.

Volume Swells and Jeff Beck

One of my favorite musicians to study (and teach my students) is Jeff Beck. In my opinion Beck is one of the most skilled electric guitarists alive, and has well adapted the instrument to push its boundaries. Of his many “sealable techniques” that everyone can learn and incorporate into their own playing, the one I teach the most is his use of volume swells. Of course, Jeff Beck isn’t the only guitarist to have made this technique a signature part of his playing— but the vocality in which he is able to achieve due to the technique is somewhat unique. While vibrato from the fretting hand and minute pitch shifts from the tremolo bar are fundamental to this vocality, the manipulation of the instrument volume is easily enough mimicked and learned. 

Spice up your Blues

Like most guitar players I’ve met, I started playing (and had my first lessons) around middle school age. Walk into any local guitar shop that hosts instructors and lessons and you’ll see plenty of 10-15 year olds walking into and out of their classes and learning Blues playing. In fact, most electric guitar players learned Blues and Pentatonic scales and Dominant 7th chords before anything else. It makes sense, since so many Classic Rock, Metal, and even some Rock/Pop songs incorporate aspects of Blues improvisation and chord progressions. However, people grow up and advance in their proficiency and begin to study the specific niche genres and styles they prefer individually… and sadly the Blues often gets left behind. 

DIY Pedalboard: Versatility and Signal Path

For some musicians, the equipment and gear revolving around the craft and industry of modern music can be as enjoyable as learning to play itself-- in fact I argue that it's an integral part of learning an instrument. Typically, I find that once someone discovers how or why something works... be it acoustic reverberation, how magnetic pick ups translate an analog signal out of the guitar (and how the potentiometer there works), or the difference in tonal and clipping characteristics between types of diodes. The knowledge acquired often makes other aspects (particularly those perceived to be more difficult) seem less daunting. Perhaps this is why modern guitarists and bassists obsess about their collection or presentation of their amplifiers and in-line effects.

Artist Series : Mike McCready

Pearl Jam made a name for themselves in the grunge era with their debut album Ten.  Thanks to lead guitarist Mike McCready, "Alive" encapsulates angst we'd all expect from an iconic 90 rock. McCready's generation was in a position to have grown up listening to players like Jimi Hendrix, Tony Iommi, Jimmy Page, as well as later artists such as Michael Schenker (UFO) and Randy Rhoads. McCready's performance and improvisation  during the 1992 PinkPop festival of "Alive" showcases direct homage to some of the guitarists mentioned above.