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This Could be the Single Most Important Thing You Need to Know as a Musician

“Do it again on the next verse, and people think you meant it.”
― Chet Atkins

“To achieve great things, two things are needed: a plan and not quite enough time.”
― Leonard Bernstein

“Actually I don’t remember being born, it must have happened during one of my black outs.”
― Jim Morrison

LISTEN!

What good is music if we don’t actually listen to it?

I’m speaking from experience here: many times I just want to jump in and play/learn a song or lick. I mean, I know it, right?

Heard it and I’m good, now let’s get to it…”

And then, when it comes down to playing, even if the notes/chords are correct, it doesn’t always sound quite right.

I think some of it comes down to us not actually listening to what the song or lick is about. We miss the vibe.

Music isn’t only about all about the notes, licks, and chords. Those are still important.

However, a big part of music is how it feels to you or someone who is listening to you.

So, here is a fun listening test that I want you to take. And it involves playing modes.

I recently did a series of videos on my You Tube channel playing various modes on the guitar.

Those videos, and this letter, are not about how to play them or to even tell you what they are (that can be a future lesson).

In fact, before I would show any of my students how to play them, I would want them to listen to examples of the modes first.

Now, I know many of you may not even know what the heck a mode is.

Perfect! You have no bias, so you can listen freely. In fact, you might even in the best position of all of us to evaluate this little test.

Here is the experiment, and it is for a very simple result:

What does it sound like? 

Does it sound sad, happy, spacey, anxious, intense, weird, bouncy, something else?

I’m going to give you 5 of the basic modes to listen to (there are many more).

And, rather than evaluating the playing skill of the player in the video, listen to what the music sounds like.

Then comment in the video what your interpretation of it is.

That’s it.

And, this is very important: there are no wrong answers. The correct answer is yours!

Also, I think it would be great for everyone to read what others think and see if it is the same and/or different from what you think.

That’s cool.

That’s art.

Here ya go, click the link, listen, and comment (the videos are short).

Dorian

Phrygian

Lydian

Mixolydian

Locrian

Rock on until the next time!

Rock On,

Tony G.

PS: Oh and hey, can you do me a favor? I’m starting a mission to grow my You Tube Subscribers to more than 152 (Ha!). No, seriously, if you can quickly hop over there and “Subscribe”, it would be so very awesome! When you subscribe, you get real time updates when videos are posted. You might find something useful and/or fun!

I promise that the videos (most of them at least) will be entertaining and/or informative!

Here is the path to arrive there:

6 String Corner

Changing Chord Techniques: Glued Finger

How to Play Guitar Better by Watching Your Posture

“All music is folk music. I ain’t never heard a horse sing a song.” ― Louis Armstrong


“I never practice my guitar… from time to time I just open the case and throw in a piece of raw meat.”― Wes Montgomery

“Oh, we’ve got a bigger dressing room than the puppets. That’s refreshing.” — David St. Hubbins


When you are playing songs on guitar (or any instrument), you know you are in the moment when you put your whole self into it. Everything is really clicking.


Moments like that are really awesome.

But, there are also times when putting our whole self into it can be detrimental to our playing.

Let me explain:

Many times we suffer from what I like to call Poor Guitar “Body English”.

And it can really hinder our playing and prevent any reasonable progress in our playing. It can be one of the main reasons our songs don’t always sound good, or a lead line just isn’t right, or that those chords don’t sound clear.

I do see it more with beginner players (which is normal) but I also see it with many who took on bad habits learning on their own or via the internet.

So what is Bad Guitar “Body English”?

While much importance is put on how we place our fingers on the strings to form chords or melody lines, it can often be missed regarding how the rest of our body is positioned while we play. And that matters. Poor posture, moving our arms, shoulders, and elbows in unnecessary ways don’t help those fingers do what they need to do.

Think of it this way: if you ever see a theater production you know that the focus is on the actors. But, without the behind the scenes production crews (lights, sound, makeup, etc.), the show falls flat on its face – regardless of how good the actors are.

Playing an instrument is the same way. Think of your fingers as the “actors” and the rest of your body as the supporting cast.

The two main culprits are how we position our left wrist and thumb. However, I am going to save that for a near-future Tuesday Tip. There is a lot to discuss there. For this tip, I want to help you look at how your Guitar Body English is and, to see if it is good or could use some improvement.

Rock Star Drift



This is the one where as you play, your left arm starts drifting, thus pulling the guitar neck further and further from your body. I see this a lot.

Now, if you want to do your best hair band rock move, by all means, go ahead and make that move!

But that is all for effect. You can’t really play well looking like that.

When you drift your arm further and further away, it becomes harder and harder to play that those tough chords or melodies. You don’t give your fingers (or your thumb and wrist for that matter) any chance to play correctly.

What you really want to do is make sure you keep that arm back in a relaxed, comfortable position. The key word is to “relax”.


Shoulder Drop

Here is another common problem I see.

This oftentimes happens when we are trying real hard to play a song or work on something real difficult.

There is this natural tendency to want to “put our shoulder into it”. Thus, the shoulder tends to drop.

Relax! Yes, relax your shoulder! You don’t really need it much to play your guitar. It will make your playing life so much better!

Elbow Swing

Sometimes, while trying to get that barre chord to sound right (or any chord, really), the left elbow sometimes wants to compensate and twist and turn.

If you catch yourself doing it, stop! Relax your elbow!

It shouldn’t swing out or in.

In fact, one simple test for not swinging inward is to imagine sticking a pillow between the elbow and torso. It should easily fit there. If not, change it.


Bad Elbow In:


Bad Elbow Out:


Correct Elbow Position:


Sit Up!

Yes, just like your mom might have said: “sit up straight and stop slouching!”

While you don’t have to sit up straight like a board, if you end up slouching on the couch too much while playing or practicing, you will either simply play bad, or pick up some really bad habits that will ultimately hinder your progress.

So, sit up!

Or, simply stand up, that works too. Your fingers (and your mom) will appreciate it!

You Look Marvelous!

No Guitar Body English:

If you aren’t sure, look in a mirror while playing. Sometimes it can be hard to really see how you look with the guitar.

Often you will see some of that Poor Guitar Body English show up and you can adjust to correct it.

If this is something that has been a challenge for you, I hope this tip will help you in your playing!

Rock on until the next time!

Do your fingers need a workout? Here is a free mini course I made for you to help out with that. It’s obvious (just a click away), easy (just follow along the course with short videos), and satisfying (you WILL play better). Check it out here:

Or just click this link: Guitar Finger Gymnastics

Rock On,

Tony G.

PS: Oh and hey, can you do me a favor? I’m starting a mission to grow my You Tube Subscribers to more than 149 (Ha!). No, seriously, if you can quickly hop over there and “Subscribe”, it would be so very awesome! When you subscribe, you get real time updates when videos are posted. You might find something useful and/or fun!

I promise that the videos (most of them at least) will be entertaining and/or informative!

Here is the path to arrive there:

6 String Corner

Guitar Finger Stretching Exercises

Guitar Finger Stretching Exercises: Stretch to Success!

Sometimes we just need to get our fingers in better shape by using some simple guitar finger stretching exercises.

Wanna play your chords better? Have them sound clearer without no “buzzy” sounds on some of the notes?

Or how about playing a melody that needs a little more “stretch from your fingers?

I see this problem a lot. Often it is because the fingers are scrunched too close together. The fingers often end up at the wrong place on the fret.

When you play a note on any given fret, you need to place the finger as close to, but not on, the fretwire towards the bridge (where you pick or strum). When you press the note too close to the fretwire on the nut side (where the tuning pegs are), the notes have more buzz and don’t sound clear.

Good:

Ok:

Not so Good:

So, when you play a C chord, for example, you need to have enough space between your fingers so that you can get each note sounding clear and concise.

I see this problem a lot when people are trying to play barre chords too.

So, here is a simple exercise to help work on stretching those fingers. It’s from my free Guitar Finger Gymnastics course which contains all kinds of guitar finger exercises.

Be sure to warm up first! Practice some things like the chromatic scale, a major/minor/pentatonic scale, or a lick from a song or solo before you tackle any stretching exercise!

Guitar Finger Exercises: Stretching

Then, if you feel somewhat adventurous, check out my other article about a cool song you can try out to work on your stretching:

Guitar Finger Exercises: Stretching to a Song

Give it all a try and good luck!

You can click the link to the full course here: Guitar Finger Gymnastics