Guitar lessons in Edinburgh

  • Reflections on John Scofield

    John Scofield played the festival theatre on the 14th July, and it should have been a mandatory attendance for every guitar teacher in Edinburgh. Aside from his incredible knowledge of harmony and sense of melody, it was a real lesson in tone and phrasing. Scofield studied at Berklee college of Music, where learning scales and arpeggios were seen as a means to an end and a lot of work was on ear training and phrasing, definitely an aspect of teaching that most Edinburgh guitar lessons could benefit from. It's a trap that most teachers/lessons end up in: teaching scales and technical material because it's easy to teach, easy to learn and comes with a more immediate sense of achievement. You can't avoid learning this stuff of course, but it's important not to play any of it like a robot, and that's one thing that really hits you when watching Scofield play; from the first couple of notes you can tell it's him and it couldn't have been anyone else. If you really listen to his playing, key aspects about his phrasing are his use of dynamics and accents; it's rare that he'll play more than a few notes without subtly varying the volume of each one. Combine that with giving every note it's full value and you've got the makings of some hip guitar playing, and that's before you've had to worry about reaching his near perfect level of groove. His individual sound and tone isn't reliant on amp settings either, when you here him play acoustic it's the same sound that comes out. Being able to develop that level of distinction in one's own sound is rare, but it's something we should all be striving for. Compare John Scofield with Pat Martino; their sound is heavily linked to their technique. Scofield uses lots of slurs and picks when he wants to accent, Martino picks almost every note and uses crescendos and diminuendos (as well as accents) to create movement in his lines. So, when you're practice technique, remember you're practising your feel as well!

    For help with any of these ideas, get in touch via the contact page: www.guitarlessonsinedinburgh.com/contact

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  • Let's talk about phrasing

    What does it even mean? Well it relates to where the phrase lands in the bar, but it also relates to how a phrase is played. Paying attention to both elements is focused on with guitar lessons in Edinburgh as it will really help beginners play with a lot more authority. There's a great blues guitar lesson on youtube with Stevie Ray Vaughan discussing the difference in how Albert King and Eric Clapton would play the same tune (hideaway) using different styles (King using more slides and open strings, Clapton using bends and playing an octave higher). And as every Edinburgh guitar teacher knows the blues is the first place to start when discussing phrasing, so let's start with a simple 12 bar. The biggest mistake beginners tend to make when beginning to improvise is to over-play; just learning a scale (usually pentatonic) and playing up and down the whole thing without taking any breaks. So try doing 2 things: just take 2,3 or 4 notes of the scale and just stick with them. Secondly try playing on roughly the same beat each time, so you'll have space between your phrases. So try something simple: start your phrase on beat 1, keep it short and leave 2 bars between each phrase. Now you've created suspense and interest, next it's time to make your phrases more lyrical. Usually (especially in a blues context) that means using articulations like bends, slides, hammer ons and pull offs. Slides are the easiest, so you can take your little 3 note lick and just slide into 1 or 2 of the notes. Blues bends (or mictro-tonal bends) are a little harder, but essential for making your licks really sing. There's 2 notes in the pentatonic this works over: the note above and below the root. The key to this bend is to bend very gradually, getting faster and faster, then cutting the note off while you're still bending (before it plateaus). So now you're ready to start ripping over a 12 bar blues! As always, feel free to get in touch at www.guitarlessonsinedinburgh.com

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  • Worth his weight in gold!

    Find the best guitar lessons Edinburgh has to offer, or even find the

    best guitar lessons in the world, study the instrument your entire life

    and, chances are, you won't come close to Allan Holdsworth.

    Holdsworth (who sadly passed away on April 15) was, without question,

    one of the greatest guitarists to have ever lived. To call him

    inimitable would be an understatement, he was completely untouchable, as

    a guitar teacher in Edinburgh he is the one guitarist I have never

    attempted to emulate myself let alone try and pass on to students. He

    had such a peerless style, from his sound to his sense of harmony right

    down to his technique it seemed as if he'd learned to play music from

    another planet, ignoring all our conventional ideas. There have since

    been a slew of copycats of course, the Holdsworth 'sound' is usually

    characterized by a combination of 'out' harmony, legato and distortion

    in a jazz context. However, his style of legato is often misinterpreted

    as standard hammer ons and pulls off (and to be honest there's nothing

    wrong with that, I personally think the legato sound is usually a good

    one even if it's not accurate to what he was doing) when in fact it was

    exclusively hammer ons, even when going to a lower finer on the same

    string. He achieved this by playing a hammer on 'from nowhere' and

    co-ordinating it with his other finger so there was no gap in the

    legato. He did this to avoid the kind of plucked sound you get with a

    pull off. It's a cool way of playing, but it would require complete

    dedication to that style to get good at it; he said himself in an

    interview that he worked very hard to achieve varying volumes with every

    finger, so he could accent any note. It's worth giving this style of

    playing a go even if you don't master it, you'll see that your hammer

    ons have to be on point! He also had a unique approach to scales,

    harmony and chords, having made up most of his own scales (a few of

    which are the same as the standard modes) and chord inversions (which he

    talks about in his instructional video). If you're going to learn the

    guitar I don't suggest you try to copy Allan Holdworth, but give him a

    listen for inspiration! As always if you want to learn more, don't

    hesitate to get in touch at www.guitarlessonsinedinburgh.com

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  • Bored of chords?

    Time to get serious about your chords! If you've decided to learn the guitar and you have ambitions of being a virtuoso guitar player, it's not unlikely that you might leave chord playing at the rudementary level. If you're taking guitar lessons in Edinburgh in a rock or pop context then basic open chords and barre chords are going to be your main diet, perhaps with a few dominant 7th chords in there too. This is where jazz chord voicings can really open up your vocabulalry, and speaking as a guitar teacher in edinburgh i can say it's something most students have overlooked. First try taking triads; if you're not sure then that's the 1st, 3rd and 5th of the scale, in this case played as a chord on adjacent strings. So C major would be C-E-G. Then find all the triads/inversions in that position (inversions are when the bass note isn't the root). So that will be either: C-E-G, E-G-C or G-C-E. Finding these triads all over the neck gives you a great sense of freedom and melody with your chords. The next step is 7th chords, and a great way to voice these is to use the drop 2 method. This means taking a 7th chord with the notes stacked in ascending order (for example C-E-G-B for Cmaj7th) and dropping the 2nd highest note down an octave, keeping the other notes the same pitch. Then run these through the four inversions. So you will have:

    root position C-G-B-E

    1st inversion E-B-C-G

    2nd inversion G-C-E-B

    3rd inversion B-G-C-E

    Some of these voicings sound great and they give you an authority with chords across the neck. These shapes are also the basis for most chord extensions (9ths, 13ths etc.). If this all seems a bit daunting then try something simpler: take your open chords and move them up the neck (including the open strings) using a barre with your 1st finger. You can then take a few strings from these chord shapes and make what we'll call chord fragments; smaller chord shapes that are easier to move around the neck.

    If anything here has been of interest, or if you'd like it explained further, don't hesitate to get in touch and book a lesson! Happy playing!

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  • Tone is in the hands, dude!

    We've all heard someone say it (teacher, friend, guitar shop employee) but as annoying as it may have been, there's certainly some truth to it. One of the main goals of seeking Edinburgh guitar lessons should be improving your tone, which is more to do with technique than amp settings. Technique can be a tricky subject too though. For some people focusing on technique means playing fast, which is a divisive topic among guitarists (I once heard of one Edinburgh guitar teacher who thought that playing faster was the only way to get better!). However, whether you have shred guitar aspirations or not, technique really means everything about the physical aspects of playing the guitar. Giving every note it's full value and playing slow enough that you make sure to achieve this. Getting every note to sound the same, with equal volume, then practicing varying the dynamics (volume) and using accents creatively. This can be pretty difficult for your picking hand to begin with, so you'll need to practice slowly. Try this: play a technical exercise (scale, arpeggio etc.) in semi quavers and try accenting on the 1, then 2, then 3 then the 4. Then try writing out 2 beats worth of semi quavers (so 8 notes) and circling a few randomly. Then try and accent these notes in your exercise. Using volume in your practice routine is important and it isn't limited to accents, using dynamics and feel within your technique practice (as if you're playing mozart or your most heartfelt solo) is the best way to get the most out of your practice routine. It's tempting to just let your fingers run through stuff and sometimes that's fine, but most of the time try and make everything you play sound as musical as possible, even if it's just a scale. As always, to get into any of this stuff in a bit more detail, please don't hesitate to get in touch to book a lesson at www.guitarlessonsinedinburgh.com/contact. Happy playing!

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