Guitar lessons in Edinburgh

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Welcome to the guitar lessons in Edinburgh blog! Here we've got some lesson material mixed in with some musings on learning music in general. Feel free to join in!

 

By Guitar lessons in Edinburgh, Mar 11 2019 10:43PM

Well if you're reading a blog on the Guitar lessons Edinburgh website, you've probably already decided on the guitar as your instrument. But just to reassure you on why you were right, here's some thoughts on why guitar is one of the best. Firstly, it's small! (ish). The piano is a great instrument, but if they don't have one wherever you're going, you're not going to be playing one when you get there. You'll never see a piano teacher carrying their instrument around Edinburgh, guitar teachers have it different. The electric keyboard has made this a little easier, but one would hardly say it was easy. The same is true for the drums, and for the many orchestral instruments (cello, double bass, harp to name a few). Then let's think about daily practice. For anyone who's lived in a flat with thin walls/ceilings and/or grumpy neighbors, then practicing one's instrument can feel less like a solitary pursuit and more like an impromptu and unwelcome performance. Even if acoustic guitar is your preferred style, you can always play an un-amplified electric guitar (unless you're a classical guitarist) and volume is no issue at all. The same is not true for the drum kit, or the saxophone, or the violin or many other instruments that many amateur players feel reluctant to practice because, by virtue of the volume of the instrument, they are denied privacy in their practice time. So we've got nothing to complain about with the practicalities of the physical instrument, but we're also spoiled in terms of the application of it. The guitar can be used for blues, country, jazz, rock, metal, pop, reggae, funk, classical, pretty much ANY style of music you can think of. It can also be used as a rhythm or lead, not to mention the vast sonic and tonal possibilites through effects and amplification, and the different tricks and techniques that guitarists have come up with over the years (tapping, pinch harmonics, artificial harmonics, whammy bar dives etc.). So well done! For choosing the most versatile and functional instrument there is! Check out more at www.guitarlessonsinedinburgh.com

By Guitar lessons in Edinburgh, Jan 29 2019 12:18AM

It's often the mistake of many Edinburgh guitar lessons to keep learning new things each lesson, because of course it feels like you're learning new things! Now there's nothing wrong with this at all for the hobby player, but if you're going to take it more seriously you need to be aware that when you're constantly learning new things, you're really just remembering fret patterns on the neck, and not really 'learning' them. Take a scale for example, as any Edinburgh guitar teacher knows many guitarists will learn a scale as a fret position on the guitar, but won't be able to play it unless they start at the start and play linear until the end. This is like learning to pass an exam; you don't really need to know the material, you just need to regurgitate it when asked. Regarding exams, it's useful to approach exams such as rockschool or rgt as broadly as possible. Most will require the student to perform a number of scales, arpeggios and chords but in a fairly limited context, as described above. It's an understandable dilemma from the point of view of the exam; it would seem too unattainable, and exhaustive, in a grading system to require the student to practice the technical material (such as a scale) to a tempo and in as many patterns as needed to have really absorbed it. It's unfashionable to talk about playing speed in these sorts of conversations, but it does serve as an indicator of the level of repetition. Ideally, it's the quality of the notes that should be valued (aiming for 'true legato', leaving no gaps between the notes) and therefore whatever tempo was required it would be assumed this was to only be played with true legato (or fairly close). It would be important to stress this point (especially as pertaining to an exam condition) so as not to encourage the student to a attempt a tempo they weren't ready for. As always, check out www.guitarlessonsinedinburgh.com for more guitar related waffling!


By Guitar lessons in Edinburgh, Dec 20 2018 11:49PM

So at Guitar lessons in Edinburgh at we've talked about relying on either the right hand or left hand when it comes to doing a lot of picking or slurring, but how about not using a pick at all? Edinburgh guitar classes will often unquestionably begin with using a pick, when it comes to popular music styles; in this post we're going to talk about using the fingers and thumb of the right hand instead of a pick. The choice of any technique is obviously going to have advantages, disadvantages and limitations, and it's my natural instinct to assume that thumb-based playing will have limitations in terms of speed. This is certainly true for the most part, however if you listen to players like George Benson and Wes Montgomery using their thumb (and playing fast by anyone's standards) then this claim starts to appear false. Phenom's like this aside, one could also take the legato approach to playing with the thumb/fingers and in many ways it's no less efficient than using a pick (legato player Brent Garsed does a version of this). Then there's the question of how fast do you really need to play? If using the thumb or fingers doesn't prevent you from playing in time then does it really matter if you can shred or not? Some great examples are John Abercrombie (there's a distinct improvement in his playing after he switched from pick to thumb), Mark Knopfler, Jeff Beck, Derek Trucks and even players who are exceptionally competent using a plectrum like Joe Bonamassa and the aforementioned George Benson choose to use their thumb at times for the sake of getting a particular tone. Any good guitar teacher in Edinburgh should be asking the question: what is it that they are trying to accomplish with their students? If sounding good is truly the primary goal (seems obvious but a lot of players don't think objectively about this), and 'sounding good' can mean tone, rhythm, feel, note choice etc. then perhaps the thumb is the path of least resistance to getting a cool sound, given how many hours of practice it takes to sound smooth using a pick. For an example of some finger-style slide playing, check out my video at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r7CUJcbOD20 As always for any questions don't hesitate to get in touch at www.guitarlessonsinedinburgh.com.


By Guitar lessons in Edinburgh, Nov 2 2018 02:22PM

If you're a pick style guitarist, you're often encouraged to pick when you practice, and when you play. But is this a good idea? As with any stylistic choice, there are pros and cons to both sides, being an Edinburgh guitar teacher it's a question I've often pondered. For me personally, I've always been a pick style guitarist and so in a 'grass is always greener' kind of way, have always wondered if minimal picking would be the best way to go. So let's discuss that: The main negative behind picking is that learning to co-ordinate the right and left hand to pick accurately takes a long time. A very long time. If it was given the attention it deserves, it would consume the vast majority of any Edinburgh guitar lesson. Possibly the biggest technical challenge to any pick style guitarist; if you try and pick what you play you're essentially adding hundreds of hours to your practice time if you want to get a clean sound. It's very hard to get right, which brings us to the next issue: legato. When using a pick one has to be very careful and listen attentively to ensure 'true legato' is being used, it's so easy to unintentionally leave spaces between the notes and end up with a very messy sound. When slurring, using either slides, pull-offs or hammer-ons the legato is built in to the technique so there's less room for gaps. You also end up with some natural dynamics (listen to John Scofield!), the picked notes will come out as accents and the slurred notes un-accented, giving you some interesting dynamics without much effort. Sounds like a lot of pros, but apart from the fact that picked notes sound cool (of course they do!), you lose control when you rely on slurring techniques. The ability to fully control the attack and dynamic range of the notes is harder (listen to Pat Martino as an example) when relying on slurring. Achieving even note values is also more difficult without picking, and lastly the actual fingering required to play various melodies has to be changed to accommodate a slurring technique, whereas by picking every note you can pretty much play anything anywhere. Overall it's kind of a question of practice time, if you've got the hours ahead of you available then being able to pick effectively is definitely useful. Otherwise, learn to slur! As always, to find out more visit www.guitarlessonsinedinburgh.com

By Guitar lessons in Edinburgh, Sep 24 2018 10:12PM

At Guitar lessons Edinburgh we've talked a lot about what to practice, but often just having the motivation or discipline to practice is a challenge in itself. That being said, part of this motivation and discipline IS knowing what to practice; it's far easier to start to learn guitar in Edinburgh when you have some clear tasks in front of you. So perhaps knowing what to play is the first step, sticking to that and actually picking the guitar up must be a close second. Now one aspect of learning an instrument that isn't acknowledged enough is the technical repetition. Whatever it is, a scale, an arpeggio, a lick, these things just need to be played over and over again. Might seem boring? It's definitely a problem for any guitar teacher in Edinburgh However I believe there are two neat ways of getting around this. The first is do it while you're watching T.V. or listening to a podcast or YouTube. A lot of people choose to relax by watching T.V. (or Netflix if you're all modern) so why not get better at guitar while you're doing it? And that really works too, and you really should do it. In fact I'd argue if you want to improve at guitar it's completely crazy to watch anything without the guitar in your hand! The other method of getting around being bored is to do the opposite: concentrate and perfect every single variable within a technical exercise, and slow it down enough until your doing them all at once. Are both hands completely relaxed? Are you playing with true legato (in other words have you left absolutely no silence between the notes)? Are you using the minimum pressure with the left hand? Are you using the very tip of the finger? Are you able to vary the volume at will, or place accents on any beat? That's a lot of questions to answer, and managing to stay on top of all of them takes a lot of concentration, but in a good way, like a kind of meditation. I actually believe this kind of practice carries a lot of the same benefits as what's known as mindfulness meditation, in that your attention is on one specific thing and not distracted with all the neurotic thoughts most of us put ourselves through constantly! So, give them both a try, I promise you good results. As always, check out more at www.guitarlessonsinedinburgh.com.

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