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, Jul 5 2018 09:37PM

In the last Guitar lessons in Edinburgh blog we talked about learning the fretboard in various ways. Now you've learnt all your all your stuff (scales, arpeggios etc.), and you've learnt it really well. So if playing music is our vocabulary, then we've just learnt all the words. Which is pretty good! Now we know the perfect word to use in every situation (a skill that would undoubtedly have benefited this blog...). Think how articulate you could be if you knew every word? Still, part of the problem is that we know a lot of words but we have trouble putting them into sentences. Stepping away from the analogy for a moment, the remedy for this in musical terms is rhythm. Unfortunately most Edinburgh guitar classes won't focus on rhythm as it's hard to teach, but if you have a strong rhythm in ANY genre of popular music (less important for classical), you're probably going to sound pretty good (and having a bad rhythm will mean the opposite). This is how you're going to be able to use those big fancy words you've learnt. If you have a musical idea, like some kind of scale or interval pattern, then applying that to a hip, off-beat syncopated rhythm is, if played accurately, going to sound pretty cool. So how do we get good rhythm? Well first we need to understand and 'hear' the subdivisions. Subdivisions are simply how we divide the pulse: 2 notes per beat, 3 notes per beat, 4 notes per beat, 3 notes every 2 beats etc. Many different possibilities. Regardless of this being Edinburgh GUITAR lessons, the first exercise we can try doesn't even involve the guitar. All you need to do is count rhythms in your head along to a metronome (or your footsteps if you're walking around!). This is stellar for improving rhythm as it isn't limited to the vague 30 minutes you spend every other day practising (lazy sod that you are), but can be done while you're waiting for the bus or whenever you have a spare 5 minutes. So the first thing to do is literally just count through a bunch of subdivisions, like the ones mentioned above (so for triplets, in your head you might counting 123123123 with the 'one' being on the beat). Then try singing (if you're waiting for the bus probably do this in your head...) riffs, melodies and jazz heads along to one tempo. This is the first stage in developing your rhythm: most of us 'hear' things at the original tempo and if you're new to this you may have a hard time adjusting it to a different tempo; this process is good for your rhythm. That's all for now, more on this rhythm business next time. Check out if you've any questions!

By Guitar lessons in Edinburgh, Jun 12 2018 12:19AM

So we've been talking a lot on the guitar lessons in Edinburgh blog about studying jazz and how much of a bloody great idea it is. However, we can take most of the same concepts and apply them to other pop music styles. A common one for most Edinburgh guitar teachers would be blues. If you want to be the best blues player you can be, you should start by learning the pentatonic scale in all 5 positions of the neck. Then practice it in every conceivable pattern, such as: ascending 3's, 4's, 5's, 6,s etc. up and down the scale. Then try connecting these patterns from the lowest note on the neck to the highest (within the scale). So, now you're done with scales, let's move on to blues progressions, the most common one being a major 1-4-5 blues (the one everyone knows). One way to get VERY comfortable with these chord changes is to play through them with a bunch of limiting parameters. How about picking one position (and as always, when we say pick one position, that means eventually doing EVERY position) and sticking to using the arpeggios in that position, keeping a constant quaver rhythm. Then how about playing the arpeggios up and down in one direction through the chord changes, without changing direction for the chord change. So maybe you're playing a blues in E and you're ascending through E7 for 8 notes (which would be E-G#-B-D-E-G#-B-D) you might end up on fret 7 on the G string, and within this exercise you'd keep going into E-G-A-C# for the A7 chord. Now you've mapped out the scales and arpeggios pretty clearly, another good exercise is to improvise through the progression freely, but only using crotchets. All of these methods get you out of the rut of sitting meandering randomly over licks and riffs (As like many Edinburgh guitar teachers, I should know, I've been that meanderer). However there is nothing innately wrong with licks and riffs, especially for blues. The famous Bruce Lee quote: "I fear not the man who has practiced 10000 kicks once, but I fear the man who has practiced one kick 10000 times" bears some relevance here. The way to practice licks in a blues context is take the cliche blues licks and practice them over and over with a metronome until you can playing them accurately and in time (and pitched correctly if you're doing bends). All this somewhat encapsulates the jazz approach to learning: get a hold of the chord changes, play the material all over the neck, and play it in time. In a word, thoroughness. As always, tune in next time for more ramblings on all things guitar!

By Guitar lessons in Edinburgh, Apr 20 2018 11:28PM

Following on from the previous blog post, if we take jazz, possibly the least popular genre ever, Guitar lessons in edinburgh would propose it to be a perfect marriage of the requirements of both classical and rock. Which means you have to practice twice as much! Let's take one of the most prominent blues/rock guitarists (the subject of a recent blog post...) of recent years: Joe Bonamassa. Now, to get to the top of the blues rock mountain Bonamassa claims to have practiced around 4 or 5 hours a day from the age of a young boy (he was actually touring with BB King when he was 12!). Not everyone starts this young for sure, so overall he's getting in more hours than most. However let's take the 'head' of the jazz genre: Pat Metheny. He states that he practiced around 12-13 hours a day. It's obviously not a simple equation like this, but the requirements are fuller. One of the great things about studying jazz (and this is what makes it a great subject for any guitar teacher in Edinburgh to focus on), even if you didn't necessarily have desires to play it, is that being a competent jazz player requires you to have as much musical material under your fingers as possible. This means scales, arpeggios, intervals, chords. And it means in as many patterns as possible, in every key and (on the guitar) in every position. Even just from a technical point of view, this means that from your jazz practice you'll get really good at playing scales, arpeggios, intervals etc., basically all the foundational material that makes up music. Because jazz is all built around a tight rhythm, you have to be able to play everything in time, and as anyone who thinks they've learnt a piece of music then tried to play it in time knows, the difference is night and day. The argument continues, but until then, go out and study your jazz!

By Guitar lessons in Edinburgh, Mar 9 2018 02:18AM

Obviously this blog isn't to guide you towards learning any one style or another; we're all drawn towards whichever style that attracts us. However, any guitar teacher in Edinburgh will, whether intentionally or not, give some (non-objective!) input into some of the advantages and disadvantages of learning one style over another. Let's start with classical, the style of my first lesson, and of many other guitar lessons in Edinburgh. Classical guitar is great for beginners, and when comparing the learning curriculums of classical and the most obvious alternative (rock), it seems that the standards are a bit higher for classical. Scales that have to be learnt for exams tend to be a higher bpm and often in 2 octave shapes rather than 1. It also forces (under pain of death) students to learn to read music, rather than tab, which can only be a good thing. This trend continues as the student becomes more proficient and reaches higher grades and greater expectations. Since the PRIMARY requirement for the classical musician is to play a rehearsed piece of music as perfectly as possible, they practice to a have a clear tone, good note values, rhythmic accuracy and of course good right and left hand technique. All good stuff. However, it's a tad strict in regards to expression, and does not require the student to really understand what they're playing, just that they can play it. In this way it can be somewhat insular.

These are all required of the rock musician too of course, yet they're often not demanded, or their importance not stressed. 'Rock' musician is obviously an incredibly vague label, however if we're talking about the basic pedagogy, classical and rock are the only 2 idioms (though rock guitarists tend to lean roughly toward either blues or shred. Sometimes both). At guitar lessons in Edinburgh, most students choose to start with rock guitar. In this style, now the stress is on 'feel', improvisation and expression. All of this is important, however all the precision and dedication to developing good tone and technique required of classical musicians normally gets diluted. No self respecting rock musician can be seen practicing scales and arpeggios, and certainly not with a metronome. Meanwhile the classical guitarists that play with even the smallest hint of personal input are all rounded up and shot. Not entirely true of course, but I'd argue at least somewhat valid criticisms of the 2 genres. Remember we're just talking about the pedagogy and what you can get out of the learning process, as musical genres to listen to you can't honestly critizice anything, as it's all subjective (and yet still I try). Hopefully everyone is offended enough to check out the blog next month where I'll argue why learning jazz is the best of both worlds!

By Guitar lessons in Edinburgh, Jan 12 2018 01:35AM

This may seem to be a very biased topic on the blog of an edinburgh guitar teacher, however I have supplemented my own guitar education with lessons throughout the course of my learning, and I also wouldn't turn my nose up to learning a few things from someone now, if I thought I'd find it useful.

Many of us hear of all these great 'self taught' players, and aside from it being a claim many people make without it being entirely true, it's a truism that the vast majority of people don't have the musical maturity when they're learning an instrument to know what's important to sounding good, and know where they're going wrong. One would be surprised how little the learning musician can really hear how they sound; this is paramount if you want to actually get better, and it's a key aspect that getting Edinburgh guitar lessons should be able to help you with.

Furthermore it's entirely human nature to want to see results from doing something difficult sooner than is reasonable (think losing weight/getting in shape). However with guitar this leads players to practice in the worst way possible and give themselves massive flaws in their technique. A classic example is the wannabe shredder that practices everything as fast as possible because that's their end goal; they've heard Steve Vai and Joe Satriani and are trying to copy it right away. What they haven't seen however are the hundreds of hours of slow practice that people who can play fast have done before you've ever heard them play.

One of the other major things most people might gain from Edinburgh guitar tuition is not just how to practice, but what to practice. So many players will find themselves sitting playing over the same things they already know, or trying to take on too much at once, or simply overwhelmed (as I have often felt) by everything they want to or feel they should be learning. If you have a good teacher and you are enthusiastic about getting better then it's by far the most efficient method. On the other hand if you're just starting out or at an intermediate level then you might just not know where to start, or not want to learn any bad habits before it gets too late. As always, to find out more check out

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