Q&A : I would like to learn guitar, but do I also have to learn improvisation? Is being able to improvise well necessary as I often hear it said? (Wouter, Genk)
One of the big misconceptions about guitar and playing music is, that you “must” learn and “must” be able to improvise in order to play music well. I find that this often scares people away from starting with guitar. I don’t know where that idea comes from, but playing an instrument and improvisation are 2 totally different things. There are top musicians who cannot (or have no interest) in improvisation. And there are people who can bring genius improvisations, but actually don’t master their instrument very well. I’m not going to elaborate too much on it, I’ll do that in a blog post afterwards. But improvisation is not necessary and is completely unimportant in most musical styles. For example, if you want to learn jazz, this is of course important, because jazz music consists largely of improvisation. If you want to learn to improvise, don’t let anything fool you about “improvisation can’t just be learned, improvisation comes from the gut!”. This statement is also larie, improvisation is (usually) due to a thorough musical knowledge and baggage in combination with a little musical feeling. But like I said, more on this later!
Q&A : When you know 2 chords you can play anything? (Reginald, Diest)
This is one of the many cowboy stories about playing guitar and learning to play guitar. Unfortunately, this statement is not correct. And fortunately this statement is not correct, otherwise everyone could play guitar and then it would no longer be fun. The people who claim or believe this are precisely those who have never played an instrument, have no knowledge of music and perhaps at most have passive musical experience. If you can push on an accelerator pedal you can also drive Formula 1 and drive a Boeing, that would be an equally absurd claim. Mastering an instrument takes years of work, and is the result of intensive and efficient practice. There are stories that it takes 10,000 hours of practice to master an instrument. That is of course also a bit short-sighted and it is impossible to put a figure on it. Every person is different, one has more musical aptitude than the other, one learns faster than the other, … . Learning an instrument is not only practicing on the instrument itself, but also gaining musical experience (read: life wisdom) and therefore also consists of listening to music, hearing training, analysis, timing, development of motor skills, etc. And moreover, there is a big difference between instruments, some examples: learning a non-melodic percussion instrument such as drum (which does not involve scales, chords or harmony), a so-called plucked instrument (where the notes are pre-chewed such as a piano, bass, guitar), a wind instrument (where the notes can depend on breathing), fretless instruments (such as violin, cello, double bass where the pitch has to be found by ear), and so on.
Q&A : I’ve been playing guitar for 8 months, but why am I still not getting the basic chords swapped in time when playing along with a song? (Jonas, Bertem)
To learn the so-called basic or open chords (Am, C, D, Dm, E, Em, F, G) quickly, it is important to learn the correct fingering from the beginning. It happens more often that we get self-taught guitarists who learned this incorrectly when they started learning to play guitar. This again highlights the importance of guitar lessons, because unlearning something is harder and takes much longer than learning it correctly. It is important to use the correct finger/numbers), and to see which fingers or notes correspond to the next chord. On the one hand, these corresponding fingers serve as a support and reference point to move on to the next chord, on the other hand, these notes will be able to continue to ripple so that they overlap during the transition to the next chord and thus create a nicer and smoother transition. Learning this basic technique correctly on guitar saves a lot of frustration afterwards. That is why this is also one of the things that we attach importance to in the beginning of the guitar lessons. You will soon find more information about this in one of our next free online guitar lessons.
We have a rock band and often try to jam together. But we notice that the bass player is not good compared to the guitarist and drummer. Should we replace it?
In the first place, you need to ask the question what is the purpose of jamming together. Is it just having fun together? OK go for it, drink a good beer and make a lot of noise. Is it the intention to write songs together? Then jamming is not always the best choice. Too often everyone wants to do their own thing, hoping that the other person likes it and starts playing along with their idea. If one doesn’t go into the other’s coolest riff, they’ll get sore toes. So that doesn’t work at all. If you want to write songs together, you need a captain on the ship anyway, so that you don’t just play at random. Agree on a number of riffs or such in advance, on which you can jam together so that everyone knows what it is about and what is expected. Good agreements make good friends! Preferably make a recording of your jam, which you then listen to together and thus get the best pieces out of it. But then again, you don’t actually have to jam to write songs — that rarely works effectively or productively. Usually you have 1 or more songwriters who lay the foundation of a song, which is then worked out by the producer. Jamming is usually just for fun! So … keep it fun!
Do I have enough musical talent to start playing guitar?
It is true that some musicians are born with a certain talent, e.g. good hearing or even an absolutely perfect hearing (perfect pitch), good memory or a naturally good sense of rhythm. But this is extremely rare: only a very small percentage of people are born with this gift, and then it must be extreme coincidence that this person is ever interested in playing music! Virtuosos exist, that is by no means a fairy tale, but only a very small percentage of musicians who achieve a high level are born with an exceptional talent. Talent is nice when you have it, but certainly not decisive for whether or not you develop an effortless technique. So what is important? Well, what do you need… 5% aptitude and 95% motivation, patience and perseverance! As the expression says: practice makes perfect!
Practicing on the names of PC chords : very important!
OK first to clear up the confusion, this is not about Personal Computer but about the abbreviation of Power Chords. Knowing the correct name of each power chord is especially important when you play together with other musicians and want to communicate in a correct way. You can say ; I play a power chord with 3 fingers on the 3rd fret on the top 3 strings, but the pianist, keyboard player or vocalist doesn’t care. Learn to talk about a G5 agreement from the beginning. Yes, but after a while a pianist or bass player also sees that this chord on the 3rd fret is a G or sol? If you play jazz, I’ll agree with you. Jazz musicians rarely tune their instrument differently. But in all other styles, guitarists sometimes use other tunings, such as Drop D tuning, Drop C tuning, Open G, Open A, Open E, D tuning, C tuning, etc. In order not to get too lost in this theory, an example : a G5 fingering in E-tuning is indeed a G5 chord, in D-tuning this is an F5 chord, in Drop-D a G5/F, in Open-G an F5add9, … (see image below). Confusing? No panic, such exercises are regularly discussed in our guitar lessons!
Q&A: What distortion or overdrive pedal do I need to sound like Metallica or Slipknot? (Dirk D., Hasselt)
Hey Dirk. What distortion or overdrive pedal needed to play metal and heavy rock… It’s not easy. Personal experience has shown that there is no cheap and good overdrive pedal. Depending on the budget, I recommend buying at least decent quality such as Boss Dual Overdrive, Boss Distortion, Boss Metal Core, MXR (Dunlop) Distortion, or a level and price category higher such as TC Electronic Nova Drive and Dark Matter Distortion. To get the sound relatively compact and transparent, a compressor / limiter / gate (including DBX) is recommended and often also Hum Debugger (including Behringer and Electro Harmonix) against the hum. But in the end, this is only going to be an approximation of a good and strong heavy sound. The secret of the solid sound such as Metallica, Rammstein, Tool, Slipknot etc lies in combining amplifiers and splitting signals. Live, 7 to 8 different guitar amplifiers and speakers are easily used and combined to make the sound fatter. With large live bands you often see modest material on stage, but the mega installation next to or behind the stage … That’s often top secret. What you often see are pre-amps and power-amps from Mesa Boogie (including classics such as Triaxis), ENGL, Laney, Peavey, etc. But OK, here we are talking about a very complex guitar set-up and an expensive system. Also, don’t forget that those big bands even employ a guitar technician who configures and programs their set-up….. The larger the set-up, the more complex the routing, switching and automation – some devices have difficulty “communicating” with each other and require special or custom routing systems. So in short: with a distortion pedal mentioned above you can get very far, but don’t look for “a pedal” that will sound like a big metal band!
Q&A : How high or low should I hang my guitar? (Raf, Heverlee)
In short: it’s completely up to you my friend! But still, there are some important facts to keep in mind. For example, you can see that jazz guitarists often hang their guitar very high. In more modern music you see this less common, unless, for example, Tom Morello (a.o. Rage Against The Machine). Why do they hang their guitar so high? The only reason I can determine is that the guitar is much easier to play that way. You have much easier access to the entire register, without having to take out circus trucks. In other words, you can play your entire guitar perfectly by standing almost stiffly on stage. Honestly, I think, if your guitar is hanging that high and were to walk around or jump on a stage, chances are the guitar would hit your chin! So why do a lot of other guitarists hang their guitar so low, like Slash and Billie Joe Armstrong? Well this mainly has to do with the “cool factor”. Hanging a guitar high isn’t really rock ‘n’ roll, is it? Over the years, a low-slung guitar has become a symbol for modern and rebellious music. But how is the accessibility of the register? Now… If you want to be cool, you have to give up! I mean, a low-slung guitar is literally very hard to reach. For chords OK, for solo it is more difficult. But hey, have you seen how they solve THAT problem? Have you ever seen how some guitarists keep their guitar vertical during a solo, or sit on their knees like a guitar hero to conjure a fat solo from their strings, or put one foot on a floor monitor? Cool, pure rock ‘n’ roll ! No, not really, this is primarily to be able to play their guitar better. But admittedly, it looks tough to the audience, that’s what counts – the eye wants something too! Conclusion: you choose how high you want to hang your guitar! Try it out for yourself until you find the right height where it feels and plays most comfortably for yourself. And last but not least … stand in front of the mirror and judge for yourself ! Ah yes, and you Baustein, what about your ??? I myself choose a bit of the happy medium, just like many other guitarists. So the guitar is not too high, and not too low … let’s say about at the height of or just a little higher than your … uh … cross.
Q&A : When I try to play fast on my guitar (e.g. on 1 string) it sounds messy. What can I do about it? (Chris M., Brussels)
Hi Chris. Gaining speed on guitar equals intensive training. To begin with, you need to work with metronome or drum machine to get the timing right. It is best to start slowly (e.g. 8th notes at 60 BPM = 2 notes per click), because the difficulty lies mainly in the synchronization of left and right hand. Then increase the speed to 120BPM each time with 5 BPM, then you switch to 16th notes with 60 BPM (so 4 notes per click). Our Speed Exercises, are guitar exercises both on 1 string and on multiple strings, with economy picking and alternate picking. Preferably, the position/angle of your pick in relation to the string also changes as the tempo increases. Pay particular attention to the movements of both hands: the faster you play, the shorter and smaller the movements should become. For example, take a look at Steve Morse, Steve Vai or John Petrucci : from a certain speed you even have the impression that they no longer move! Practicing every day is extremely important, and gradually increasing the pace of the metronome until you feel that it is no longer possible. What is also very useful is to record your own guitar playing on computer or MP3, GSM, etc. It is increasingly better to judge the guitar playing with a recording, because while playing itself you can hardly hear the errors. Is the speed not working so well yet? Do not doubt your talent, because speed on guitar is not art and has nothing to do with creativity. Speed is pure training! It is much more difficult to make 2 notes sound good, correct and expressive than to play 50 notes per second!
Q&A : Some strings make a rattling sound. Can we look at and fix this during the guitar lessons? (S. Stevens, Sint-Truiden)
The rattling of the strings can have several causes. On the one hand, this may have to do with the action height of the strings on the guitar neck. This is the distance between the frets and the string. Depending on the type of guitar, music style and personal preference, this action height is adjusted. For fast rock and metal riffs, and for fast solos to be able to play, a smaller distance is taken. For a clean sound, a greater distance is recommended. But the rattling can also indicate that the guitar neck has been screwed in and whether the bridge needs to be adjusted. In any case: don’t try this at home! We are happy to inform you about this during the guitar lesson, but please have these delicate adjustments to your guitar performed by a skilled guitar technician.
Q&A : I’m not making much progress. How long do I need to practice guitar a day to become a better guitarist? (J. Debergh, Sint-Truiden)
Regular practice on your guitar is an absolute must if you want fast progress. Not everyone has time every day to grab their guitar. But still, preferably 5 minutes every day instead of 1 time a week an hour. Practicing every day refines motor skills, trains memory, increases playing speed, and improves timing and synchronization between left hand and right hand. We are happy to put together a tailor-made guitar practice program with a number of guitar exercises (guitar technique, scales, chords, songs) that you can do every day. The progress made is easy to time: in the beginning the guitar exercises will take 15 minutes, but soon you will notice that all the exercises are done in a few minutes … And then it’s time to add new exercises.
Q&A : How long will it take before I will be able to play guitar? And is taking guitar lessons really necessary?
This is a question I hear almost daily from beginning guitarists or drummers. It all seems so simple, you find a guitar in the attic, learn some guitar chords in a few minutes, you are looking for a drummer, bassist and singer, you are discovered in your garage during the third rehearsal, and 2 weeks later you are on the main stage of Rock Werchter with a major record contract! OK this looks more like a comedy TV movie (who remembers Spinal Tap 😀 ?), but a lot of people ironically have this image about playing music. Just like : “If you know 2 chords you can play everything, right?”. Playing music isn’t hard, is it? Unfortunately, the reality is slightly different. Why is learning to play guitar and music quickly impossible? Through many channels I hear and read people who claim to be able to play guitar in 2 weeks via self-study. And on the Internet you often see advertisements of quacks trying to sell guitar courses: “Learn to play guitar in 10 days”. It just doesn’t mention that they have a lot of pain in their fingers, that they can’t keep the beat, don’t know or can’t get the right rhythm, and that they try to play everything indiscriminately without having an idea what they’re actually doing, have no dynamics or feeling at all, play cramped, etc. I advise beginners to play guitar for at least 5 to 15 minutes a day, longer is of course also allowed! Keep repeating a lot of lessons at the beginning, until you are sure that you have mastered them. Don’t think at first “I’ll try it on myself and via the internet first, and then I’ll take lessons”. There are always a few who succeed, but the vast majority of these do-it-yourselfers who still want to take guitar lessons afterwards because they are stuck is a nightmare for music teachers. That way you miss essentials, you miss the basics … You start running a marathon when you haven’t even learned to crawl. And such students often become demotivated and frustrated when they are suddenly told with all their abilities that they have to do basic exercises from a beginner. The right start is very important: well-dosed and structured information, the right exercises and applying the right dose of music theory in a fun and playful way! And moreover, musical experience is a kind of life wisdom that you can never rush, it comes with age, it comes through practice, playing music, listening, playing together, studying, studying, analyzing, … . For example: purely technically, you can play like BB King after 4 to 5 years of practicing on your guitar, but playing and sounding with the feeling and dynamics of BB King, for that you have to have played at least 75 years of music!
Q&A : Which picks should I use for funk music like Red Hot Chili Peppers? (B. Freson, Leuven)
Which picks you use best for playing guitar is a completely personal choice. I always recommend purchasing and testing a range of different picks which are most suitable for your guitar technique. There are large differences in material and in thickness. Some picks have a profile squeezed in so you are less likely to lose the pick … which certainly happens sometimes with funk music and funk technique such as Red Hot Chili Peppers and the like. My personal preference is for picks made of hard material such as 0.7mm celluloid or 1.0mm polyacetal. These picks fit well in the hand and are hard enough to give an aggressive attack for both funk music and rock to metal. For beginners it is usually thinner pick, possibly made of nylon. Once your picking technique improves, you can switch to thicker and harder picks. A pick made of harder material gives you much more control over the playing speed and dynamics of playing the guitar.
Q&A : Is the choice of guitar neck color important? (F. Raes, Gingelom)
The type of wood used on top of the guitar neck (fretboard) is very important for the sound. A pale neck (often maple/maple) as often used with Fender Stratocaster or Fender Telecaster, has a somewhat sharp, shrill and more aggressive sound in my experience. For example, a pale neck is ideal for more aggressive funk and blues. I’m thinking of Jimi Hendrix, Red Hot Chili Peppers, but also guitarists like Eric Clapton and Mark Knopfler play on a Maple Strat. A dark neck sounds warmer and softer, often used with Gibson, Ibanez, some Fender guitars, ESP, Music Man, etc. A dark neck sounds better for warmer sounds in both pop music and more heavy styles. In metal, for example, you will not easily see a pale neck. But the choice of guitar neck is also something personal, and many guitarists have both in their guitar collection. In terms of maintenance, a maple neck is much less fragile and requires less maintenance than, for example, Rosewood (rosewood). But yes, anyway, go to the music store and try out the difference for yourself!
Q&A : What is a pitch or pinch harmonic and how can I play it? (C. De Kraemer, Tienen)
A pinch harmonic (harmonic refers to the harmonic overtone sequence) is a guitar technique in which screaming sounds can also be made on the lower strings of the guitar. This can be done by touching the string with the thumb or middle finger when the pick touches the string. High distortion is also needed to make this sound optimal. Pinch harmonics are mainly used in (hard) Rock and (heavy, trash etc.) metal. These pinch harmonics are used by countless guitarists, from Steve Vai, Joe Satriani to Richie Sambora, Linkin Park and Foo Fighters. Playing a pinch harmonic does take some practice…! During our guitar lessons, this guitar technique is of course also discussed.
Q&A : When I practice guitar on the chair at home, it seems that the guitar is a little too low. I’m having some trouble finding a good attitude. (Johan, Sterrebeek)
Ideal for guitar is that your thigh on which the guitar rests is horizontal, so that the guitar cannot slide off your leg. For most, a regular chair is too high and the thigh slopes downwards, which is why you sometimes see guitarists with footstools under the right foot. Ideal is actually an office chair that you can put lower.
Q&A : Is it difficult to switch from western to electric guitar later? (Hendrik, Leuven)
No, on the contrary. Electric is easier to play, by which I mean the physical exertion. With western guitar, the neck is wider, thicker and strings are also thicker, so you have to apply more force. For the rest, there is not much difference, except for more possibilities in terms of music styles on electric guitar. Mind you, a good western guitar is much more expensive than a good electric guitar.
Q&A : Why don’t my rock guitar riffs sound as good as I hear them in the songs of my favorite bands? Is it my guitar or effects pedals? (Jorn J., Ghent)
Maybe you listen a lot to bands like AC/DC, Coldplay, Pearl Jam, Metallica, Kings Of Leon, The Black Keys, Editors, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Volbeat, Muse, etc. and try to recreate these riffs on yourself. Although you do everything correctly, it doesn’t sound like it should. Is the problem now with your guitar, effects pedals or guitar amplifier? That chance is very small, the problem lies with 99.9% certainty with yourself. You really didn’t want to hear this answer. The sound, dynamics, energy, expression and power of playing guitar, guitar riffs and sound starts at the source, and that is the guitarist in person. If your rock rhythm guitar tried to learn from yourself or through various sources on the internet, chances are that you learned the certain mistakes. You probably learned rock chords (or power chords) without a solid technical background and without learning the basic techniques. Because of this limitation, whatever you try to play will always sound like amateurish and you will miss the powerful sound in your guitar playing that is needed to get a real rock sound out of your guitar. Even when playing easy riffs, you notice that the sound coming out of your guitar sounds rather well-behaved or even sloppy. For this, the help and feedback of an external person, a skilled and trained guitar coach or guitar teacher, is very useful. He will be able to point out the mistakes and give you the right basic exercises to learn to play music better and tighter. Moreover, you have to take into account that mastering an instrument takes years, until you literally and figuratively play with your instrument. When playing these rock or funky riffs you are constantly thinking about your technique, while it is necessary to master your technique so that you no longer have to think about it. This is the so-called “autopilot” that you have to strive for as a guitarist, drummer or any musician and that takes a while to get to that level. So don’t expect, even if you take guitar lessons, that after 3 years of playing guitar you will already sound as good and powerful as e.g. Muse … You’ll get there in the end!
Q&A : What songs do you first learn as a beginner guitarist at Guitar Studio? (Anthony, Bierbeek)
This depends on age and style choice: at Guitar Studio we have pop/blues lovers up to metalheads. For starters, accent on timing and full songs can play through at any level.
Q&A : I want to start with electric guitar but don’t know what to buy… Tips? (Kristof, Tienen)
You have to distinguish between a guitar for study, studio and live. As a study guitar you should not spend too much money, for example a Fender Squier guitar of 300 euros is more than enough. Cheaper brands are also available, even total packages of 100 euros as in the Aldi a while ago. But they often have defects in electronics, neck, etc. after a few weeks. Check the website of musicstore.de or thomann.de
Q&A : I have a question about guitar tuning : what exactly is a C-tuning? (Pieter, Brussels)
With songs that are on the internet, there is sometimes confusion between C-tuning (all strings 4 semitones lower C-F-Bb-Eb-G-C), open-C-tuning (CGCGCE), and Drop-C-tuning (CGCFAD). With the C-tuning and drop-C, the strings are already fairly loose … A thicker string set is recommended for this.
Q&A : The 7th stage of the C chord is a B. Why is a C7 played with an A# while a D7 is played with a C? (John, Hasselt)
To briefly summarize music theory … Cmaj7 (CEGB) = 1st stage of scale C (CDEFGAB), C7 (CEGBb) = 5th stage of scale F (FGABbCDE). The chord D7 = 5th stage of scale G (GABCDEF#), hence D7 has a regular C. Note : a C7 has a Bb as a small septiem and no A# … In practice, this is identical on our Western instruments and is called enharmonic. In music theory, this is a big mistake and a tube on the exam.